Tech: The first device that can use gigabit LTE is launching this year
Gigabit LTE, a wireless technology that can support theoretical speeds up to 1Gbps, is closer than you might think. Today, Qualcomm, along with Netgear, Ericsson, and Australian carrier Telstra, is announcing the first product to support gigabit LTE, a mobile hotspot. The hotspot makes use of a variety of technologies to hit those high speeds, including carrier aggregation. It runs on Telstra’s existing LTE networks and will be available to before the end of the year.
In addition, Qualcomm is announcing that its next-generation 800 series smartphone processor platform will include the X16 modem that supports gigabit LTE speeds. Qualcomm says that smartphones with the new chip — which doesn’t yet have an official name, but will succeed the recently-launched Snapdragon 821 — will be available in the first half of next year. The X16 modem represents a significant boost in speed over the 600Mpbs maximum speeds that the current X12 supports. Qualcomm expects that carriers in every market will launch gigabit LTE service once the modem is available and in smartphones.
Of course, while gigabit wireless speeds sound incredible, you likely won’t see them in the real world. Qualcomm’s Sherif Hanna says that in the company’s simulated testing environments, average speeds ranged from 112 to 307Mbps, with a peak of 533Mbps. While that’s not quite a full gigabit, it’s notably faster than most people see on current devices.
Finally, Qualcomm is also looking to the future beyond next year, and is announcing its first 5G compatible modem. The Snapdragon X50 is expected to be available in 2018 and will support speeds up to 5Gbps. It uses the 28GHz millimeter wave band and makes use of beam forming and beam tracking technologies to hit those speeds. Qualcomm says the 5G antennas are much smaller than current 4G ones, and it can use an array of 16, 24, or 32 in the place of one 4G antenna. The first products to use the X50 are expected to launch in the first half of 2018, and Qualcomm says it will use the 2018 winter olympics in Korea as a test bed for 5G technology.