If mobile 5G is going to become more than a nice idea, it needs the thorough coverage you expect today -- and that means putting it in the small cell sites that boost coverage in busy areas. And Qualcomm might just play a pivotal role in making that happen. The company is launching the first 5G New Radio platform (the catchily named FSM100xx) that brings gigabit data speeds to small cells. It can handle 5G on both regular frequencies and millimeter wave, and it promises to be helpful both indoors, where 5G's high frequencies don't always penetrate, as well as the great outdoors.
It'll be a while before you can actually connect to a 5G network using Qualcomm's new tech. Samples won't even reach customers until 2019, and it'll take a while after that for the platform to reach real-world networks. That's not such a problem when many carriers won't even launch mobile 5G until that same year, but it does help explain why the 2018 launches are limited -- the hardware just isn't there to offer widespread 5G coverage.