Could T-Mobile speeds hit 4Gbps? Sure, in theory. On Tuesday Qualcomm announced some new features for its upcoming X70 modem, which will almost certainly be featured in Samsung’s Galaxy S23, and there’s a big one for T-Mobile.
Specifically, Qualcomm showed the X70 combining three channels of 5G, 190MHz of band n41 and 100MHz of band n77 for 6Gbps theoretical speeds. In the US, T-Mobile has those two channels making 190MHz of n41. It only has 40MHz individual channels of n77, so it won’t be able to hit that total 6Gbps, but 4Gbps? Maybe.
Of course, other things stand in the way of those ridiculous speeds. T-Mobile would need to have enough internet backhaul to its cell sites, and would need to see the point in individual users’ speeds being that high anyway. But the real point here is that the X70 will be able to use America’s fragmented 5G airwaves better than previous cellular modems.
T-Mobile does not have quite the available spectrum for this 6Gbps example, but it has most of it.
Using Wi-Fi to Help 5G
A second new feature is for everyone. Qualcomm’s Smart Transmit feature has already shown great results in the Galaxy S22 series, helping to give the S22 excellent edge-of-cell signal performance. On the X70, Qualcomm is extending Smart Transmit to manage the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios as well.
This is to extend 5G coverage, not Wi-Fi coverage. Radios are a messy, black-magic world, and some Wi-Fi frequencies are close to some 5G frequencies. By understanding the Wi-Fi situation and modulating that performance along with cellular, Smart Transmit 3.0 can squeeze even more range out of mid-band 5G.
This will become more interesting, and more important, in 2024 as we potentially see 5G NR U deployments in the 6GHz band. In English, that means carriers using the same frequencies as Wi-Fi 6E to enhance 5G, something they can not quite do yet but which is a promised future feature.
In that case, the phone knowing what Wi-Fi is doing in tandem with 5G is an absolute must, so it does not try to talk over itself.
Wireless ISPs Get a Boost
A third new X70 feature is great for dedicated wireless ISPs such as Starry. That one is standalone millimeter-wave 5G. Millimeter-wave, the fastest form of 5G, is much maligned for its short range. But when specifically used for “fixed” home internet, especially in low-slung suburban areas, it can have much greater range.
Standalone mmWave means new companies that weren’t existing mobile carriers can buy relatively inexpensive mmWave airwaves and start wireless internet businesses. While most of the mmWave in the US is owned by existing wireless operators, Starry is the most notable new ISP that could take advantage of this.
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Starry currently uses an older technology that runs on the same frequency, called LMDS (local multipoint distribution system). Getting LMDS ISPs into the 5G world means less expensive, better performing, and more widely available equipment for them, and thus for home wireless ISP users, too.
Standalone millimeter-wave 5G has potential for wireless ISPs like Starry.
What Phones Will Have the X70?
Qualcomm put a real tease in its press release: The X70 is coming by the end of 2022. Unfortunately for Americans, I have a strong suspicion that is not a promise for the US.
The first X70 phones will likely have the upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which will be announced in early December at the Snapdragon Summit event. What we’ve seen for the past few years is that a Chinese mobile vendor or two will get out way ahead by announcing the first phones with the new chipset at that event. But those phones never come to the US.
Rather, the first US phone with a new Snapdragon tends to be the Samsung Galaxy S23, which should come out around February. So we’re likely to see the X70 and its new capabilities in February 2023. That works well with T-Mobile’s plans, as the company will probably turn on its n77 airwaves at the end of 2023.
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