Qualcomm partners with carriers and OEMs for a 5G NR rollout

Next-generation mobile broadband is a chicken-and-egg problem: current carriers are still in the process of getting 5G service ready and client devices lack support for the technology. Qualcomm yesterday announced partnerships with some of the heaviest hitters on both sides of the proverbial eggshell. The company says it's partnering with 18 device manufacturers and 19 different carriers to build the network needed for 5G mobile broadband access. Big Q's Snapdragon X50 is the first 5G modem on the market, and now device makers and huge carriers across multiple continents will conduct their trials using that next-gen chip.

Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 modem chip, left, and mmWave antenna, right

The device manufacturer list consists of Asus, Fujitsu, HMD (Nokia), HTC, Inseego (Novatel), LG, NetComm, Netgear, Oppo, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, Sony, Telit, Vivo, WNC, Wingtec, Xiaomi, and ZTE. Notably absent are the world's two biggest smartphone makers, Apple and Samsung. Qualcomm and Samsung announced a partnership a few days ago, so Samsung is potentially already including Qualcomm's 5G technology in some way. Apple and Qualcomm are not on speaking terms right now and the fruit-flavored consumer electronics maker appears to be betting on Intel for next-generation wireless communication.

Qualcomm says its 5G modems will come to market within smartphones, always-connected PCs, head-mounted augmented reality devices, and mobile broadband devices like wireless hotspots. The company says the next-generation connectivity could potentially eliminate the need for mobile devices to connect to Wi-Fi.

The list of carriers includes, in alphabetical order: AT&T, BT Group, China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT, LG U+, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, TIM, Verizon Communications, and Vodafone. The names among the carrier partnerships are more impressive than the device maker list. The operators will test connectivity in the sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands.

AT&T says it will offer a 5G hotspot device before the end of 2018. The timing and the partnership between the carrier and Qualcomm suggest that the promised puck will carry the Snapdragon X50 within. The chip maker says smartphones with the 5G modem will hit shelves before the end of next year.

Qualcomm's announcements regarding device manufacturer and carrier partnerships suggest that 5G rollouts will begin across North America, Asia, and Europe starting late this year or in early 2019. No matter when 5G data transmissions begin, it appears that Qualcomm's chips will be among the first to send and receive them.

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