Just days after helping three cellular carriers initiate 5G service in South Korea, Samsung made an interesting announcement in partnership with U.S. carrier Verizon: The companies plan to release “one of the first commercial 5G smartphones” in the first half of 2019, apparently powered not by Samsung’s own chipset, but instead by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform, including its X50 5G modem.
Today’s announcement is significant because Samsung has been working on its own 5G technologies, including mobile chips, and was a major contributor to the international 5G standard that was finalized late last year and earlier this year. Yet Verizon indicates that Samsung will be showing a “proof of concept” device this week, using Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship mobile platform, antenna modules, and related components.
The use of Qualcomm parts simultaneously reflects the San Diego company’s apparent strength in the emerging 5G chip market and the continued struggles of even its largest rivals to miniaturize the high-speed mobile chips. Facing thermal and battery issues with its first 5G chips, chief rival Intel recently pushed up development of a second-generation 5G chipset that is expected to be used in iPhones and other devices in 2020. Chinese developer Huawei has shown giant heatsinks to work around its own 5G modem’s thermal issues. By comparison, numerous companies have signed up to use Qualcomm’s parts.
Verizon says that its mobile 5G service “will go live in early 2019 and expand rapidly.” The company is already offering fixed 5G home broadband service in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, with reported typical speeds up to twice the company’s promised 300Mbps norm, approaching its 1Gbps peak.
Samsung’s 5G phone is unlikely to be the first mobile device on Verizon’s network. Verizon previously announced that Motorola will release the 5G Moto Mod, a Snapdragon X50-equipped 5G backpack, for the Moto Z3 in “early 2019.” The Moto Z3 is already available, making the addition of 5G capabilities as easy as snapping the accessory onto the back of the existing phone.