Samsung has announced the Exynos Modem 5100, something that would usually be a relatively uninteresting piece of equipment, but made more special here because of its 5G capabilities. Be prepared — the onslaught of 5G-related technology is only just getting started.
What makes this special? It’s almost certainly the modem that will provide 5G connectivity for future 5G smartphones and other mobile devices from Samsung and its partners. Samsung does not explicitly state which devices it will be used in or when it will happen, but does say the modem has been successfully tested using a 5G “end user equipment prototype” — that’s a phone to you and me — equipped with the modem and connected to a 5G base station.
The good news is the Exynos Modem 5100 isn’t solely a 5G modem, as it will connect to most networks we use right now, including 2G, 3G, HSPA, 4G LTE. This is essential, as 5G will take a while to become widely available, and even with a 5G phone in our hand, we’ll have to fall back on 4G LTE and perhaps even 3G regularly for a start.
Samsung also estimates the kind of speed boost we’ll get from a phone that uses the Exynos 5100 Modem. The maximum downlink, says Samsung, will be between 2Gbps and 6Gbps, depending on the type of connection it has at the time. This means the connection could be up to five times faster than Samsung’s current modems. Squeezing all this technology, both current and future, into a single chip that unlike Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod, stays hidden away inside a device is a major step towards a consumer-friendly 5G’s launch.
5G’s actual launch window is still unknown, even with Verizon’s bluster surrounding the 5G Moto Mod, and even when it does come we’ve no idea how many people will be able to take advantage of such a fast connection, or how much it will cost. Samsung has warned that the Galaxy S10, expected early in 2019, will not be a 5G phone, indicating it will be later in the year before we see a compatible device from the manufacturer. When it does come, it will likely have the Exynos Modem 5100 inside.
One other thing to consider here is the use of the Exynos name. This may mean only Samsung’s phones that use its own Exynos processors — usually launched internationally — will get the Exynos Modem 5100, and Qualcomm-powered devices launched in the U.S. and selected other regions will use a different chip. The modem’s announcement comes soon after Samsung revealed a new RAM module suited to 5G mobile devices.
Samsung will make the Exynos Modem 5100 chip available to its customers, which may have different plans for it, before the end of this year.