Huawei Balong 5000 multi-mode 5G modem.

Update, January 24, 2019 (7:05AM ET): It looks like Huawei’s 5G event had another noteworthy story that was omitted from the press release. Huawei’s Richard Yu told attendees in Beijing that the company would launch a 5G foldable smartphone at Mobile World Congress (h/t: Android Police).

“We look forward to seeing you in Barcelona in February, where we will launch the world’s first 5G smartphones with foldable screen (sic),” Yu said, according to a live translation.

The curious bit is the use of “smartphones” rather than “smartphone.” Does this mean we’ll see multiple 5G smartphones with foldable displays, or was it simply a translation blunder? Either way, it seems like we can expect at least one 5G-equipped foldable phone from Huawei in Barcelona next month.

Original article, January 24, 2019 (5:54AM ET): Huawei has been one of the key players in the development of 5G technology and it’s taken another big step today in announcing the Balong 5000 multi-mode 5G modem.

It’s not the first company to reveal a multi-mode 5G modem, as Samsung announced the Exynos Modem 5100 last year. Nevertheless, Huawei becomes one of the few companies to offer 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G connectivity on a single chip. Meanwhile, Qualcomm’s X50 modem requires a Snapdragon chipset packing gigabit LTE support to deliver multi-mode connectivity.

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Huawei says the new modem can achieve sub-6Ghz download speeds of up to 4.6Gbps, and download speeds of up to 6.5Gbps over mmWave spectrum. Real-world results are expected to be much slower, owing to congestion and environmental factors, but it should still offer a noteworthy leap over basic LTE connectivity.

The Balong 5000 is also touted as the first modem to support both standalone and non-standalone 5G network architectures. The company explains that non-standalone architecture sees 5G networks being built atop an existing LTE network, while standalone technology is… standalone (who knew?!).

First Huawei 5G phones at MWC

The Chinese company said the Balong 5000 supports smartphones, home broadband devices, vehicle-related devices, and 5G modules. Of course, we’re expecting smartphones to be the big focus for Huawei, and it’s got some news here too.

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“Huawei’s 5G smartphones powered by Balong 5000 will be released at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona,” the company wrote in its press release. That certainly suggests we’re getting phones that will be commercially available a short while after launch, but we’ve contacted Huawei for clarity.

Multi-mode modems are a big deal for Huawei and Samsung, as it means the companies don’t need to use two modems (one for legacy connectivity, and one for 5G) in one device. This approach reduces device complexity and improves battery life in theory compared to using two modems.

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