5G trials: Vodafone and Qualcomm are testing 5G with a smartphone-sized device

Mobile operator tests 5G modems in another step towards 5G services.

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Another small step forward for 5G networks: Vodafone, Qualcomm and Ericsson are conducting tests with 5G modems and a device that's similar in size to the 5G mobile phones currently in development.

The mobile network said it has now begun lab tests of a "5G smartphone form-factor test device" using Ericsson radio equipment at its technology centre in Berkshire. Vodafone said the test device features Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem and antenna modules with integrated RF (radio frequency) transceiver, RF front-end and antenna elements.

This is a major step in ensuring customers get the best 5G experience possible from their devices, said Vodafone, while Qualcomm said the tests will be instrumental in defining and refining the 5G services that consumers will be able to access. A number of tech companies have announced that they will be using the Snapdragon X50 5G modem in their 5G devices this year, including Asus, HMD Global, HTC, LG, OnePlus, and Xiaomi.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

5G networks — expected to roll out gradually across the UK in 2019 — will offer more bandwidth and lower latency, so that smartphone users will be able download data or video much faster. Earlier this week, Vodafone engineers in Salford, Greater Manchester, downloaded a 1 hour 45 minute-length movie over 5G in 24 seconds. The same movie over fast 4G (using carrier aggregation) took 1 minute 35 seconds to download — four times as long.

All of the UK's operators are testing 5G in different areas right now: EE has a trial running in east London; Vodafone is testing 5G in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, and Manchester; O2 is testing 5G at the O2 venue in Greenwich, south London; and Three also has a 5G trial underway in London. However, 5G smartphones are only expected to start arriving in the middle of this year.

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