Qualcomm has revealed a list of OEMs that will be among the first to deploy its 5G-capable Snapdragon X50 modem – as well as details of the UK networks signed up to participate in the first live, over-the-air 5G spectrum trials. What does this all mean for the future of 5G and are the first phones really coming in 2019? Let’s take a look.
We’ve known for a while that 5G is going to start becoming a ‘thing’ in 2019, but now we’ve got a clearer idea of the 5G-ready handsets we might be buying – and the networks that will support them when the time comes.
The San Diego-based telecoms giants has released a relatively comprehensive list of hardware manufacturers and network operators that are on-board with its 5G launch aims, and while there’s a slew of familiar faces, there’s also one notable absentee.
Related: What is 5G?
On the OEM front, the company lists the likes of Asus, HMD Global (parent company of the Nokia brand), HTC, LG, OPPO (the owner of OnePlus), Sony, Xiaomi and ZTE. There are others, of course, but these are the companies most associated with consumer-level smartphones.
Where’s Samsung on the roll call, you ask? If you read Trusted Reviews, you may be aware I penned an op-ed not long ago stating why I was convinced the Galaxy S10 or Note 10 would be the first commercial 5G phone launched. It was based on a recently announced long-term “strategic relationship agreement” between Qualcomm and Sammy focussed on (among other things) the transition to 5G.
No, Qualcomm’s statement simply says its newly released list of 5G OEM partners “includes” the above firms – there will be more RSVPs to this party and some may drop out, but I maintain Samsung is poised to be first down the red carpet. Read my full analysis of why Samsung will launch the first 5G mobile phones to learn more.
But back to the after work drinks gossip…
Here’s what Qualcomm had to say when announcing the news ahead of the first “standard-compliant 5G NR mobile device product launches starting in 2019.”
“These OEMs are working to commercialise 5G mobile devices for the sub-6 GHz and millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum bands starting in 2019 based on the first commercially announced 5G modem solution, the Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem family.”
In other words, the above parties are all interested in launching 5G handsets – no one’s saying they’ll be the first.
On the network front, things are a little bit more straightforward, where the big names lined up to live test 5G spectrum 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.
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In the UK, that’s pretty much as to be expected, with EE (ultimately part of BT) and Vodafone once again lined up to do battle over early 5G bragging rights – just as they did with 4G many years ago.
Whether you believe, like me, that the Qualcomm/Samsung “strategic relationship agreement” with give the South Korean chaebol first dibs on on the all-important Snapdragon X50 modem is still up for debate, but the good news for mobile fans is that the first 5G devices should arrive next year. In fact, I’d say at this stage it’s more or less a certainty, at least on the spec sheet. As with 4G, though, widespread access will be another matter entirely and we can expect plenty of teething pains during 5G’s infancy.
We’ll be spending some time with Qualcomm at MWC later this month, hoping to gain some additional insight, so check Trusted Reviews regularly for all the latest 5G mobile news.
Related: MWC 2018
What do you think the first 5G handset will be? Tweet your predictions to us @TrustedReviews