The Qualcomm Gen 3 X60 5G modem appears to be a significant leap forward for 5G modems. But it is really an admission that 5G, as we know it here, is a huge con that will take many more years to reach its potential and coverage.
We will come back to the X60 5G modem soon but let’s just say that it adds a lot of features that make older modems pretty well useless. And it won’t be here until 2021.
Let’s look at the state of 5G
Now I don’t want to question Qualcomm but the mmWave spectrum has not even been licensed in Australia and that Deep Purple 2020+ mmwWave dot is more like 2025+.
Gen 1 – X50
Its first modem – the X50 (paired with the Qualcomm SD855) was rushed to market to help 5G carriers at launch. That modem could support either non-standalone* sub-6Ghz (in Australia its 4G on steroids) or standalone* mmWave (the USA mostly uses this) – not both. It also requires a separate 4G modem.
Sub-6Ghz theoretically is capable of 5Gbps but in reality, gets from 100Mbps to a maximum of 1Gbps if you are sitting on a rare animal called a Tel$tra tower at its George Street, Sydney offices.
And I am heartily sick of chasing 5G signals (Telstra coverage map here). In fact, my 4GX Samsung Note10 beats the Galaxy S10+5G with Gen 1 X50 modem.
*The definition of non-standalone mode is data is over 5G and voice over 3/4G. Standalone can do both over 5G, but we do not have that in Australia.
Gen 1 devices had about a $500 price premium over 4G.
Gen 2 –X55
We have not seen many handsets yet. It comes with the Qualcomm SD865 SoC, so it is in the new Samsung Galaxy S20/+/Ultra for the US market (Australia gets the Exynos 990 and a Samsung modem). So, for 2020 we are going to see the X55 that has a maximum theoretical speed of 7.5Gbps and real speeds still around a maximum of 1.5Gbps.
But more important is that it supports 4GX LTE as well and has a maximum theoretical speed download/upload speed of 2.5Gbps/316Mbps. It supports 4G FDD (Frequency Division Duplex for frequencies below 800Mhz) and TDD (Time Division Duplex).
In summary, it is a faster X50 with 4G LTE FDD/TDD support. It also has 26/28/39GHz support. Samsung’s equivalent is the Exynos 990 with a discrete 4G/5G modem.
There is also a version X52 for Qualcomm’s SD765 that ‘borrows’ much of the X55 features but capped at 3.7Gbps. Samsung’s equivalent is the mid-range Exynos 980 has SoC with CPU and 4+5G modem in one.
Gen 2 devices have about a $200 price premium over 4G, and this is where the 5G action will be in 2020.
Gen 3 – X60
Website here and not commercially available until 2021
Qualcomm claims it is
- World’s first solution for 5G mmWave and sub-6Ghz aggregation
- World’s first sub-6 carrier aggregation across FDD, TDD
- Supports any current 5G band, mode or combination
More jargon, but this supports 5G Low-band DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) or repurposed 4G frequencies. It also supports carrier aggregation (FDD-TDD, FDD-FDD, TDD-TDD) – again repurposed 4G bands. Peak download speeds are still 7.5Gbps, but upload is 3Gbps. In other words, it has combined the 4G and 5G modems and supports sub-6Ghz and mmWave.
And we won’t see it until 2021 at the earliest.
Another myth we need to bust is the latency issue.
Tel$tra claims ping speeds of 1ms (in theory) – that is patently rubbish and is for a mmWave signal under lab conditions.
Using the Samsung Galaxy Note10 in 4GX Mode in a full-strength reception area we get ping times of around 20ms and between 90-100Mbps download and 40Mbps upload.
Using the S10+5G (Exynos 9820 or Qualcomm SD855 and X50 modem) ping times are similar, and it gets 100-150/40Mbps speeds.
It gets worse in marginal 5G reception areas where 5G ping times skyrocket to 150ms whereas 4GX remains pretty stable.
GadgetGuy’s take – X60 is what we want today to restore confidence – not in 2021
5G is still a well-perpetrated hoax to revive flagging smartphone sales. In fact, 5G has seen smartphone sales dive off a cliff in Australia (and elsewhere). Estimates are a 5% drop as people finally wake up to the fact that a) a $500 hardware premium and b) Tel$tra ratty 5G (4G on steroids) coverage are not worth paying for.
It has led to people holding on to perfectly good 4G phones for a year or so longer.
Anyway, the announcement of the X60 modem for 2021 or later and that Tel$tra’s ratty faux 5G coverage may improve by then makes a lot of sense to wait for these handsets. I know I will!