The first mass-market 5G smartphones will become commercially available by 2019, according to Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf, due to increasing demands from the consumer and business segments driving an acceleration of the previous 2020 timeline.
"You will see [5G] in real devices, on the shelf, in 2019," Mollenkopf said during the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany.
"And if I were to answer that same question a year ago, I would have said 2020."
Mollenkopf added that there are already several network operators in the United States, Japan, and South Korea that are preparing for a 5G launch in 2019, and that they would likely be joined by Chinese carriers.
"I think you will see the typical first movers -- Korea, Japan, and the United States -- you will see robust demand in all of those locations, meaning that there are multiple operators wanting to be first and not be left behind," Mollenkopf said.
"What we are seeing in China is a real desire not to be a follower and to launch with everyone else."
Qualcomm is already working on 5G trial networks across the globe, in February announcing a partnership with Ericsson and Telstra to conduct 5G new radio (NR) interoperability testing and an over-the-air field trial using the current 5G NR specifications provided by 3GPP during the second half of 2017.
For the trial, the companies will make use of millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum technologies at higher-frequency bands to increase network capacity and allow for multi-gigabit speeds across the 28GHz, 39GHz and sub-6GHz spectrum bands, as well as Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology along with beam forming and beam tracking.
At the same time, Qualcomm and Ericsson said they would partner on additional 5G trials with Japanese telecommunications provider NTT DoCoMo and European giant Vodafone.
The trial with NTT DoCoMo in Japan will take place in the first half of 2018, utilising the mid-band 4.5GHz spectrum in addition to 28GHz mmWave spectrum using 3GPP Release 15 standards on Massive MIMO antenna technology, which ends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously; beam forming technology, in which antenna arrays steer a beam to where a user is; adaptive self-contained time-division duplex (TDD) technology; scalable OFDM-based waveforms for wider bandwidths; advanced coding and modulation; and a low-latency slot structure design.
Prototype devices from Qualcomm and prototype base station solutions from Ericsson will be used over NTT DoCoMo's trial network environment.
The trials in the United Kingdom with Vodafone, meanwhile, will take place in the second half of 2017 across the sub-6GHz bands, also using Massive MIMO, beam forming, adaptive self-contained TDD, scalable OFDM-based waveforms, waveforms for wider bandwidths, advanced coding and modulation, and a new framework design.
Qualcomm is currently also aiding Verizon in its bid to roll out 11 pre-commercial 5G trial networks with Cisco, Samsung, Ericsson, Intel, LG, and Nokia.
Verizon's first trial 5G network was deployed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in May, with the other 5G networks -- in Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Miami, Florida; Sacramento, California; Seattle, Washington; Washington DC; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; and Denver, Colorado -- to be deployed before the end of 2017.
Qualcomm is also working on pushing smartphone tech, last week publishing a list of features that it already provides for Android phones in response to claims that the newly unveiled Apple iPhone X is innovative.
These features include fast charging on the HTC One M8, LG V30, and Xiaomi Mi5; dual cameras on the One M8, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Note 8; facial recognition on the Galaxy S8; fingerprint sensors under the display in Qualcomm's own reference design handset; augmented reality on the Lenovo Phab Pro 2; bezel-less design on the Xiaomi Mi Mix; OLED display on the LG Flex 2; 4K display on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium; gigabit LTE on the Galaxy S8; ultra HD premium playback on the Galaxy S8; Bluetooth 5 on the Galaxy S8, Note 8, V30, Xiaomi Mi6, and HTC U11; and HD wireless audio over Bluetooth via aptX HD on the Galaxy S8, OnePlus 5, and V30.
Qualcomm is additionally working on trials of gigabit-speed 4G LTE and Internet of Things (IoT) networking platforms.