Here's the Fast Modem You Want in Your Next Phone

An LTE modem may not seem like a critical piece of the 5G puzzle, but the latest modem unveiled by Qualcomm today (Feb. 14) will be a key component on 5G phones once those devices arrive next year.

Qualcomm's X24 LTE modem promises 2 Gbps download speeds, at least on cellular networks capable of that kind of throughput. The X24 delivers double the speed of Qualcomm's first-generation LTE modem, the company said.

Several features help the X24 achieve those blazing speeds. The modem is the first to support 7x carrier aggregation, meaning the modem combines different carriers to increase bandwidth. The X24 can also provide 4x4 MIMO on five aggregated carriers for more efficient throughput. Essentially, Qualcomm says, the X24 will be able to use every bit of a wireless provider's spectrum. It's also capable of Category 20 upload speeds.

All that speed is important for future smartphones, given the arrival of the 5G networking standard. Network providers are beginning 5G trials this year, with the faster network set to arrive in 2019. However, that covers just the initial launch of 5G — it will take longer to fully build out the faster networks, making it essential that phones still have a fast LTE modem inside for those times when 5G networks aren't available.

MORE: The Truth About 5G: What's Coming (and What's Not) in 2018

For that reason, the first 5G devices — which are expected to start appearing in early 2019 — will have both a 5G and LTE modem. The X24 will work with Qualcomm's X50 5G modem to ensure a smooth transition between networks.

Don't expect the X24 modem to be part of Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 845 processing platform. The Snapdragon 845, which is expected to power Samsung's Galaxy S9 phone launching later this month, features an X20 modem. But the X24 will be available to device makers later this year as they develop the first 5G-capable devices.

Image Credits: Qualcomm

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.