Qualcomm has taken a big step to bring fiber optic-like internet speeds to the smartphone.
The mobile chipmaker Thursday revealed a new cell phone modem called the Snapdragon X16 LTE, which can deliver wireless mobile data speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, the company said in a press release. That’s on par with the top speeds available on Google Fiber’s broadband network and is two-thirds faster than Qualcomm’s 2015 LTE modems, which could deliver 600 megabit-per-second maximum download speeds and 150 megabit-per-second upload speeds.
There’s a big caveat. While Qualcomm’s mobile data modem is capable of reaching those tops speeds, the majority of wireless carriers around the world aren’t even close to delivering wireless internet speeds at that level. Australian wireless company Telestra claims some devices on its network can achieve peak speeds of 450 megabits per second. But when measured by average speed, most carriers top out well under 100 mbps. The fastest average 4G LTE mobile data speeds in the world can be found in Singapore, with an average speed of 37 megabits per second, according to mobile network analytics company OpenSignal. In comparison, U.S. carriers deliver much lower average speeds, with T-Mobile at the top with 12 mbps.
One way both chip manufacturers and carriers are starting to get around the limitations of their networks is a technology called carrier aggregation, which combines multiple LTE wireless connections to deliver higher speeds. Qualcomm’s X16 chip is capable of combining four LTE connections. Earlier versions of carrier aggregation technology can also be found in devices in the smartphone market today, such as Apple’s iPhone 6S, the HTC One A9 and Samsung’s Galaxy S6.
Qualcomm is providing Snapdragon modem samples to device manufacturers starting Thursday. But commercial versions of the modem aren’t expected until the second half of 2016.