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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

X60

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