Qualcomm announced Thursday that its Snapdragon X50 5G New Radio (NR) mobile modem chipset was chosen by 19 global operators for upcoming mobile 5G trials. The chip giant also received pledges from more than a dozen OEMs to use the component for commercial 5G device launches due in 2019.
Wireless network operators slated to use the chipset for live, over-the-air mobile 5G trials include AT&T, British Telecom, China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT Corporation, LG Uplus, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, TIM, Verizon and Vodafone Group.
The OEM list, meanwhile, includes a number of familiar names such as LG, ASUS, Fujitsu, Nokia, HTC, Inseego/Novatel Wireless, Netcomm Wireless, Netgear, OPPO, Sony, Xiaomi and ZTE, among others.
Notably absent from the list, however, are Apple, Samsung, and Huawei -- the world's top three smartphone vendors. These three vendors account for almost 50 percent of total smartphone shipments and more than 80 percent of premium smartphones in the market. In 5G terms, they represent the main addressable market for early deployments, according to ABI Research analyst Malik Saadi.
"Moreover, many of these smaller device OEMs have little to no presence in many countries, including the US, suggesting that other markets, notably those in Asia, could be the first to get their hands on 5G smartphones," Saadi said.
Still, Qualcomm is touting the commitments as proof that its mobile 5G NR technology is ready for the smartphone form factor.
"2018 will be a big year for Qualcomm Technologies and the mobile industry overall as we work to execute on the agreed upon 5G NR specification," said Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon. "These trials demonstrate how we are working with global operators to fuel growth and innovation in the mobile industry and make 5G a reality by supporting a large number of expected commercial launches in 2019."
Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon X50 in 2016, with plans to make it commercially available during the first half of 2019. It was designed to enable field trials and early deployments of 5G networks globally, allowing download speeds of around 5Gbps and supporting operation in the mmWave spectrum at the 28GHz band, with 800MHz bandwidth, along with Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO), adaptive beam-forming, and beam-tracking technologies.
The modem can be used for 4G and 5G mobile broadband, along with fixed-wireless broadband devices, when paired with a Qualcomm Snapdragon platform and its gigabit-speed 4G modem. The company also highlighted always-on PCs, and virtual reality and augmented reality headsets, as use cases for the technology.