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Qualcomm announces the first 5G modem for mobile devices

Although we are quite a few years away from seeing wide scale adoption of 5G mobile internet, Qualcomm has just announced the world's first 5G modem that will allow mobile phones to reach multi-gigabit download speeds.

On Monday, the company announced that it had created the first 5G modem which it has dubbed the Snapdragon X50. Qualcomm's new chip has the potential to reach download speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second which is exceptionally fast given that the global average 4G download speed is nowhere near that fast at just 13.5 Mbps.

Though the company has developed a 5G modem, users will still have to wait on carriers to adopt 5G and set up the necessary infrastructure to utilise the new technology. However once mobile phones are able to utilise 5G networks they may be able to access cloud services faster than they can access flash storage which could prompt businesses to conduct even more of their operations in the cloud.

Sherif Hanna, a manager of technical marketing at Qualcomm, highlighted how 5G could change the nature of the way we use mobile devices, saying: “At those speeds, it completely transforms what happens on a mobile device."

Qualcomm will begin putting its new Snapdragon X50 chips in the hands of consumers during the second half of 2017. The company then plans to begin shipping phones that contain its 5G chips in early 2018, coinciding with the launch of the first 5G networks.

Setting up the infrastructure to enable 5G networks to operate will be a difficult task for telecoms as Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 chip is designed to run on the 28GHz band. It will work using millimetre waves that have difficulties travelling over long distances and are unable to penetrate walls. In order to provide 5G service to their customers, mobile operators will have to build numerous base stations or “smart cells” to enable 5G service.

South Korea's KT is the first carrier that plans to launch a 5G network which it plans to have set up before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. 

Image Credit: Nito / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.