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Qualcomm performs first 5G test on a mobile device, debuts 5G reference smartphone design

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Qualcomm’s X50 5G modem for mobile devices
Image: Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s long march towards 5G took a few steps closer to reality today, as the company has announced that it has completed its first test of a 5G connection on a mobile device. The test was completed using the X50 5G modem first announced a year ago and was performed on the 28GHz millimeter wave frequency band. Qualcomm says the modem achieved gigabit speeds in this test, but it is capable of 5Gbps speeds once full 5G deployments are completed.

In addition, Qualcomm announced its first 5G smartphone reference design, which it will use to test 5G modems, radios, and networks with smartphone makers over the next year or two as they prepare to release 5G-compatible smartphones in the first half of 2019. The reference design is 9mm thick and features an edge-to-edge display, like many current smartphones available today have.

Qualcomm 5G smartphone reference design
Image: Qualcomm

To make the X50 modem work in a smartphone form-factor, Qualcomm developed a new millimeter wave antenna that’s roughly the size of a dime. The company says that it can fit two of these antennas in a smartphone, and though it is already the smallest millimeter wave design available, the plans are to shrink it by another 50 percent over the next twelve months.

In addition to the 5G news, Qualcomm has also announced a series of components that will make it easier for device manufacturers to support T-Mobile’s new 600MHz spectrum that is currently in deployment. Currently, the only smartphone that can take advantage of the new spectrum is the LG V30, though Qualcomm expects more phones to support it before the end of this year and into early next year.

Lastly, Qualcomm has announced the new Snapdragon 636 processor for midrange smartphones. The 636 succeeds the 630, which just started showing up in phones in the past couple of months, and boasts a 40 percent improvement in performance. It is a 14nm chip (for comparison, the high-end Snapdragon 835 is a 10nm chip, lower numbers are better) and supports ultrawide FHD+ displays, 600Mbps LTE connections, and up to 24-megapixel cameras. Qualcomm says the new chip will be shipping to its customers beginning in November, so it will likely be a year or so before it shows up in a smartphone.