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Qualcomm's new 2Gbps LTE modem is an important step toward 5G

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Qualcomm has announced its newest LTE modem for smartphones ahead of Mobile World Congress, the Snapdragon X24, which promises to reach top download speeds of up to 2Gbps.

The company claims that the X24 is the first Category 20 LTE modem that can support those kinds of speeds, as well as the first 7nm process chip on the market. At top speed, it’s twice as fast as the company’s previous gigabit LTE modem, and while it’s still unlikely to see those speeds in real life — which is more of a carrier-side problem — improving the technology in devices should still lead to faster speeds overall.

The Snapdragon X24 supports up to seven carrier aggregation (topping things like Samsung’s latest Exynos chipsets, which supported six carrier aggregation) and 4×4 MIMO antenna arrays on up to five aggregated LTE carriers, which allow for a theoretical maximum of 20 concurrent LTE streams. According to Qualcomm, this functionality will allow for X24-equipped devices to connect to the entire range of spectrum bands available to carriers, which would increase overall performance beyond what we have now. (Again, we’re still a long way to go on the carrier side before phones can take advantage of this — even the most advanced networks in the US only use three carrier aggregation right now.)

The X24 is meant to help pave the way towards 5G, by moving the 4G experience forward as much as possible. It’s a logical move for Qualcomm, considering that in the early days of 5G networks, coverage will be somewhat limited — especially for mmWave networks, which will likely only exist in highly trafficked areas at first. Making sure that devices can reach faster speeds on 4G will make that transition less painful for users.

The goal is to launch devices with the Snapdragon X24 sometime in the end of 2018, and that the modem will work in tandem alongside the Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem in multimode 4G/5G devices when 5G networks begin to roll out in 2019.

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