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Early this year, at the Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm showcased its 5G modem. At the time, the modem was the size of a bloody briefcase; so humongous the average person could not conceptualize what it is, it was unattractive.

Fast forward, seven months down the line, Qualcomm has made a quantum leap, or should we say a major-Nano-shrink, and fitted the briefcase-size 5G modem into a smartphone. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are in the early days of 5G wireless connectivity; ten times faster than what you would get with the best of the current version of 4G LTE.

Qualcomm first unveiled their 5G modem about a year ago, dubbing the prototype, X50. It still maintains that name, although everything about it is now small and tiny. It is still in beta stage, and you should not expect any smartphone with a 5G modem any sooner than 2019. At least not from Qualcomm, but given they have been the mobile chipset market leader for some years now, I won’t hold my breath that someone else is going to beat them to it.

Qualcomm 5G modem X50

Look at the size of X50 during the Mobile World Congress Feb 28, 2017

The Qualcomm X50, this current tiny one, can achieve gigabit speeds on several 100MHz 5G carriers. By carriers I mean the air channels over which information flows, not the wireless carriers (operating within the 28GHz millimeter wave spectrum) you pay monthly for unlimited mobile data that is never actually unlimited.

The downside to the 5G network high frequencies that carry enormous capacity of data, is that they can only travel at a fraction of what the sub-3GHz frequencies, which the 4G LTE uses. To effectively carry the 5G network, the carrier will have to invest heavily in localized antennas to push the signals further. Not to mention, it is going to be an uphill task for phone, with small antennas to send and receive such high frequencies signals.

For the immediate future, Qualcomm envisions 5G co-existing with 4G LTE for a considerable period. Just like how 4G and 3G co-exist with one another, where one is not present the other one is available; but 5G will be a significant turbo boost for 4G where it exists. They two will work side-by-side with 5G adding super capacity on the network where it is needed.

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