5G is still a long way go but the folks at Qualcomm wants to enable gigabit wireless connectivity today. Their new X16 LTE is the first commercially announced modem that’s designed to deliver up to fibre optic 1Gbps speeds over today’s 4G LTE networks. That’s LTE Category 16 speeds, versus the current Cat 9 (600Mbps) and Cat 6 (300Mbps) standards that are supported on current flagship smartphones.
Making 1Gbps possible is the use of multiple antennas and advanced signal processing. Through carrier aggregation, the X16 modem can receive 10 streams of LTE data simultaneously through 4 antennas. With an average throughput of 100Mbps per stream, you can get 1000Mbps download speeds combined.
Since late 2014, Qualcomm is capable of hitting 450Mbps via carrier aggregation (3x 20Hz) with up to 64-QAM on the Snapdragon 808 and 810 chipsets. Now with support for 256-QAM, the X16 modem is able to deliver more than double the speeds from the same amount of spectrum. To maximise its potential, it can also tap into LTE unlicensed spectrum such as 5GHz, that’s being used by 802.11ac WiFi.
Before you get excited, the X16 modem isn’t available on their current Snapdragon lineup. Their current top-end Snapdragon 820 uses the X12 modem which goes up to 600Mbps. Even if it is available, the real life capabilities depend on the telcos themselves. Both Digi and Maxis have deployed LTE-A at selected locations but the reality is that we only managed to get slightly above 100Mbps versus its theoretical 300Mbps download speeds.
So is this 5G? Not really considering trial runs by Huawei and NTT Docomo have already hit 3.6Gbps, with an average speed of 1.34Gbps. What can you do with it? How about watching live stream 360 VR videos at 4K resolution. We probably need to wait a year for devices to support them and a couple years extra for our telcos to catch up.
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