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The slow and steady march toward 5G continues. On the heels of LG’s V50 ThinQ 5G, Huawei’s 5G-capable Mate X, and Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, TCL — the Guangdong, China-based electronics company perhaps best known for its BlackBerry- and Alcatel-branded handsets — today announced that it’ll demonstrate its first functional 5G USB data terminal at Mobile World Congress this week. In partnership with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone carrier by number of subscribers, TCL plans to launch the data terminal in the second quarter of this year.

The terminal packs MediaTek’s Helio M70 first-generation 5G modem and a 4,000mAh battery that lasts a “full day,” and it leverages tech like 4×4 MIMO to achieve 4Gbps and 2Gbps downlink and uplink, respectively. It supports two bands in the 5G NR radio access interface — n41 and n78 — and uses both the standalone (SA) and non-independent networking (NSA) variants of the 3GPP’s 5G specification to offer dual LTE and 5G connectivity.

“It’s essential that we take advantage of the many opportunities in this nascent field, and we play an important role through providing aid and resources to the 5G trials and commercial projects of our operators’ partners,” said Charles Zou, TCL’s general manager of global research. “TCL Communication will continue the exploration of 5G technology and focus on the research and development of terminal products such as smartphones, tablets, data terminals, and internet of things.”

While stateside networks like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile continue to tout their 5G progress, China’s poised to make significant deployment headway. According to a study by Deloitte, China has outspent the U.S. by $24 billion in 5G infrastructure since 2015 and built 350,000 new 5G cell sites, while the U.S. has built fewer than 30,000 in the same time frame.

One carrier — China Unicom — recently announced plans to invest $3.08 billion (¥21 billion) in 5G rollout by 2020.

“The arrival of 5G will bring huge commercial demand to the terminal industry, and MediaTek fully supports mobile phone manufacturers to quickly achieve new growth,” said TL Lee, general manager of MediaTek’s Wireless Communications Business Unit. “Our Helio M70 5G chip will help mobile phone manufacturers who are at the forefront of 5G to promote the sustainable development of the industry and enhance the mobile experience.”

The 5G terminal’s unveiling comes a day after TCL debuted a 5G software implementation for European and Asian markets based on open source project OpenAirInterface, developed in partnership with German telecom signal processing firm Creonic and French research center Eurecom. And it follows the unveiling of TCL’s prototypical flexible smartphone, which taps the company’s patented DragonHinge tech to bend — much like Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy Fold — if not fold completely flat.


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