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ZTE's ‘gigabit’ phone is little more than a concept

ZTE (STOCK)

ZTE announced this past week that it would debut a gigabit phone at Mobile World Congress. The device is supposed to make 360-degree VR, 4K video, and instant cloud storage possible on the move. While it’s possible ZTE will bring a physical phone along for the show, the company has clarified that it will not be releasing this device for the time being. It’s a proof of concept that demonstrates how the company might eventually create a gigabit phone.

ZTE explains that it would rely on carrier aggregation, which bundles various 4G bands together to leverage their strength and eventually reach a gigabit download speed. This wouldn’t require carriers to upgrade their network to 5G, which is thought to be capable of speeds up to 1 Gbps (in theory). A hotspot in Australia uses this same technique to provide Telestra customers with gigabit speed. When that hotspot was announced, Qualcomm also showed off its 800-series smartphone processor platform, which includes the X16 modem that supports gigabit LTE speeds. ZTE’s concept phone would rely on the Snapdragon 835 and X16 modem.

5G and gigabit internet are likely to be a major topic of conversation at this year’s MWC. In addition to ZTE’s proof-of-concept, Verizon announced plans for 5G testing with millimeter wave hardware in multiple cities across the US, AT&T is planning to test its own more unspecified “5G Evolution” network later this year, and Intel, Qualcomm, and Samsung all announced new chipsets that can support gigabit LTE speeds. Confused? Read this 5G explainer.