Even as wireless carriers and smartphone makers hype up their plans to offer 5G speeds sometime in the future, the current 4G LTE technology continues to get refined and improved. Today, ahead of the 2017 Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain, chip rivals Qualcomm and Intel have both announced new LTE modems with support for faster network speeds.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE chipset is the 7th such product from the company to support LTE networks, and the second that uses its Gigabit LTE technology. According to Qualcomm, the modem can support download speeds up to 1.2Gbps. It can achieve these kinds of speeds through the use of carrier aggregation, which allows a device with the modem to access as many as 12 unique streams of data, each with speeds of up to 100Mbps. Upload speeds with the Snapdragon X20, while not as fast as its download rates, are still pretty solid at up to 150Mbps.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? However, there are a few things to keep in mind. The biggest one is that the Snapdragon X20 LTE chipset has just started sampling to phone makers, and they are not expected to be put inside new handsets until mid-2018. Another thing to keep in mind is that current LTE networks will likely not be able to handle 1.2Gbps speeds in the real world.
Intel is not sitting down and letting its big competitor have all the LTE fun today. The company also announced its new smartphone modem, the Intel XMM 7560, which is its 5th such product to support LTE networks. The XMM 7560 is supposed to handle download speeds “exceeding 1Gbps” and upload speeds up to 225Mbps. Like Qualcomm’s new modem, the Intel XMM 7560 also uses carrier aggregation to achieve these new speed records.
As with Qualcomm’s solution, the claimed speeds on Intel’s chips sound good but likely won’t be able to be reproduced in the real world on current LTE networks. Intel says the XMM 7560 will start sampling to smartphone makers sometime in the first half of 2017. Once again, that means we won’t likely see any devices with Intel’s hardware inside until sometime in 2018.