Samsung’s introduction of the Galaxy S10 5G last month was a somewhat curious affair. The fourth model looked a little different from the S10e, S10, and S10+, but Samsung made no commitments as to how its namesake 5G feature would perform. Today, we’re beginning to get a sense of the phone’s top speeds, though they’ll likely differ at least somewhat between countries.
According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, top carrier SK Telecom has just completed network testing of the Galaxy S10 5G, with a promise of up to 2.7Gbps speeds — 2.6Gbps initially and 2.7Gbps “within the first half of the year.” These performance levels are based on combining 4G and 5G signals, a dual connectivity option that increases speeds by 80 percent compared with 5G alone.
At that data rate, which is based on “gigabits” rather than “gigabytes,” it would take only nine seconds to transfer a 3 Gigabyte video — a speed that would be astounding but for the latest 5G and 4G engineering advances. Qualcomm says its next Snapdragon X55 modem will peak at 7Gbps in 5G mode and 2.5Gbps on supportive 4G networks, but devices with that modem won’t be available until the end of 2019. Most current 4G flagship smartphones peak at roughly 1Gbps.
Samsung hasn’t said whether the S10 5G’s data performance will be different between countries, but that’s a distinct possibility. The company is apparently using Qualcomm chips in its U.S. phones and Samsung chips in its South Korean phones. This decision — along with country-specific 5G network differences — could lead to slower peak speeds in the U.S., where carriers have announced plans to launch and expand mobile 5G networks this year, but without specific speed guarantees. Verizon’s 5G Home network promised only 1Gbps peaks and 300Mbps “typical” speeds.
The Galaxy S10 5G is now expected to launch in South Korea in April, following reported last-minute regulatory, testing, and hardware delays. Samsung has said that Verizon will be the first U.S. carrier to offer the phone, which will likely debut after the 5G Moto Mod attachment for Motorola’s Moto Z3 smartphone, now officially expected on April 11.
Update at 8:58 a.m. Pacific: Samsung notes that the S10 5G’s testing peak was reached with 1.5Gbps of 5G bandwidth using SK Telecom’s 3.5GHz spectrum, plus 1.15Gbps of 4G bandwidth using aggregated 1.8Ghz, 2.1Ghz, and 2.8GHz frequencies. While these numbers may be confusing at first, they’re notably all using sub-6GHz radio frequencies — not the higher-performance millimeter wave frequencies favored thus far by Verizon and AT&T.
As such, the S10 5G could actually see faster speeds in the U.S. than in South Korea — assuming similar network support for 4G/5G signal aggregation. We’ll have to wait and see whether that’s offered by any carrier for the new phone’s U.S. rollouts.