Qualcomm's simulations of 5G networks show ludicrous speed gains

Samsung's unveiling of its latest flagship Galaxy S9 Android smartphone is probabaly the big story of this year's Mobile World Congress in Barecelona. Qualcomm, maker of the largest bit of silicon in US-bound S9 handsets, also has some interesting demos in its booth, including results of simulations of next-generation mobile broadband networks that show what kind of speeds users might see when those systems roll out next year.

The company simulated Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (NSA 5G NR) networks in Frankfurt, Germany and San Francisco, California. Both simulations predicted huge increases in available bandwidth along with substantial reductions in latency, compared to existing LTE networks. Qualcomm says the performance boosts could deliver new classes of experiences to mobile devices beyond the usual browsing, downloading, and multimedia streaming that most gerbils are used to.

At Frankfurt, Qualcomm simulated augmenting existing LTE cell sites with NSA 5G NR equipment operating in the 100 MHz-to-3.5 GHz spectrum. The company estimated this configuration could result in a boost in browsing speed from 56 Mbps to an impressive 490 Mbps for a median 4G user. Latency dropped from 4G LTE's 116 ms to a gamer-friendly 17 ms. Download speed for the 10th-percentile user rose from 8 Mbps to 100 Mbps on the simulated 5G network.

The company's San Francisco simulation also offered a sneak peak at performance increases possible on the 28 GHz "mmWave" spectrum. In this model, browsing speeds rose from 71 Mbps on 4G to a positively-ludicrous 1.4 Gbps when within mmWave coverage. Median browsing latency dropped from 115 ms all the way down to 4.9 ms. The company says 90% of 5G users in an mmWave deployment area could see download speeds as high as 186 Mbps, compared to 10 Mbps on current network technology. Qualcomm claims the median 5G file download speed on mmWave was 442 Mbps. The detailed figures for this simulation suggest that connection speeds are heavily dependent on coverage in the mmWave spectrum.

In both cases, Qualcomm predicts that median video streaming quality could potentially increase from 1920x1080 at 30 FPS with 8-bit color to 7680x4320 at 120 FPS with 10-bit color. The company included more detail about the methodology behind its simulations in its press release. The SoC-and-modem maker has a demonstration of the network simulation in its booth at MWC this week.

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