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Samsung Just Beat Apple to 5G Punch

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So we know the Galaxy S10 won’t feature 5G support, but that hasn’t stopped Samsung from making a significant announcement on the 5G front.

It comes in the form of a new modem — the first 5G modem Samsung has ever produced, that will enable exponentially faster data speeds in its future products.

Samsung has unveiled the Exynos Modem 5100, a chip built on the latest 5G specification agreed upon by the 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project). The modem can reportedly deliver throughput up to 2Gbps when running in sub-6GHz mode, and a maximum of 6Gbps when using mmWave networks.

To ensure a seamless transition between existing LTE infrastructure and nascent 5G networks, the Exynos Modem 5100 also supports all modern standards, from 2G GSM and CDMA all the way up to 4G. That’s a critical detail, as LTE is still improving even as 5G takes shape, and will continue to from the backbone for carriers’ networks for some time.

The most interesting thing about Samsung’s new piece of kit, though, is when it’s expected to launch. While 5G might seem years away, the company says it expects to implement the Exynos Modem 5100 in consumer devices before the end of 2018.

That’s an ambitious claim, though it’s also a bit confusing. Again, Samsung has confirmed that the Galaxy S10, likely releasing next spring, will not support 5G. The Galaxy Note 9 has already launched with no provisions for 5G, so it’s unclear what product this chip will find a home in.

MORE: Moto’s 5G Mod Is a Big Risk, and We’re the Guinea Pigs

Furthermore, even if the Exynos Modem 5100 does see the light of day before January, we’re still in very early days for mobile 5G. Sprint made headlines earlier this week when it said it would release its first 5G phone, an LG-made device, in the first half of next year. The carrier expects to roll out 5G support in nine cities in over that timeframe: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, Verizon is embarking upon 5G with a 5G Moto Mod for the upcoming Moto Z3, though so far the company has only shed light on its residential 5G gear.

It’ll be interesting to see how the first 5G devices operate in real-world environments. Early 4G LTE phones were crippled in battery life, even though they delivered what was, at the time, phenomenal data speeds. Perhaps Samsung is waiting for a point when it feels it can deliver an experience as consistent as that of its current handsets — at that point, maybe we’ll see modems like the 5100 inside the Galaxy S11 or perhaps the Note 10 in a year’s time.

Photo Credit: Caitlin McGarry/Tom’s Guide

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