This early, talk is rife that 5G internet is already looming in the horizon. Qualcomm has just bolstered this development when it announced its futuristic Snapdragon X50 during the 2016 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong.
The Snapdragon X50 is a 5G modem chip that will work in the next generation 28GHz millimeter-wave spectrum.
This variable qualifies the modem as a 5G peripheral according to the technical specifications set by Verizon's 5G Technology Forum (V5GTF) based on its early 5G trials.
"It's engineered to support unprecedented download speeds of up to 5Gbps," Qualcomm said in an official statement. "It is designed to achieve these breathtaking speeds by utilizing very wide bandwidths available in the 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) band combined with advanced signal processing technologies."
The 5Gbps speed is significantly faster than the fastest 4G modem today. It is translated to as much as five times download speed improvement.
The incredible speed achieved in 5G internet and the X50 chip is based on the ability to harness the multi-element antenna arrays within the wide bandwidth in the mmWave band. This is distinguished from the handful of antenna used in 4G LTE network because antennas work together intelligently so that beamforming and beam tracking become possible. In this system, the X50 can communicate to a 5G cell despite obstacles along the way. The energy in the mmWave beam will simply bounce off barriers to reach the 5G cell.
What is particularly interesting about Qualcomm's X50 5G modem announcement is that it was made in conjunction with an event involving the initiative to establish 5G infrastructure. There is currently a consortium, which includes tech companies and telecommunications providers such as Netgear, Telstra and Ericsson, that is in the business of developing and building 5G network. This indicates one important information, that once X50 rolls out, the world is ready to transition into a 5G reality.
The announcement of the Snapdragon X50 also highlighted a vulnerability in 5G infrastructure. The barrage of related and supporting information released about the chip indicates that it could have shorter range than 4G LTE. Qualcomm itself underscored this when it explained how existing 4G LTE infrastructure could serve as a backup for devices that will be moving out of the 5G range. It is not clear whether X50 will also work seamlessly with other 5G technologies such as the AirGig broadband technology that AT&T is developing.
There is still no official word from Qualcomm regarding the X50's public release. However, Forbes expects that the chip will debut in the smartphone world by 2018, which is the scheduled 5G rollout for Verizon's 5GTF and Korea Telecom's 5G-SIG technologies. Another report also cites the possibility that Qualcomm could demonstrate a prototype by the second half of 2017.