ZTE reveals the first 5G-ready smartphone at MWC 2017

27 Feb 2017

ZTE stand at MWC 2015. Image: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

2017 will likely be the year of 5G internet speeds as Chinese telecoms player ZTE reveals the first 5G-ready phone.

4G speeds for mobile devices of up to 30Mbps has become the standard that Irish mobile networks and others around the world aim for, with device manufacturers engaged in a constant battle to stay ahead of the latest developments.

Throwing its hat into the ring, ZTE in China has revealed its latest device, which is ready for the next era of mobile speeds of up to 1Gbps.

Will record 360-degree VR video

Unveiling the Gigabit Phone at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017, ZTE said that it is the first device to offer such speeds, ahead of a future where 5G internet will become the next evolutionary step for mobile internet.

According to AFP, ZTE confirmed that the phone will also come with the ability to record 360-degree panoramic virtual reality (VR) video and, of course, fast downloads of high-resolution content.

Major mobile network operators around the world have announced plans to begin testing 5G networks capable of ultra-high speeds, including South Korean carrier KT Corp, which expects a roll-out in 2018.

As well as this, new data compiled by Viavi Solutions ahead of MWC 2017 revealed that 25 mobile operators were lab-testing 5G.

Who can handle such speeds?

Five operators have reached data speeds of 35Gbps or more in 5G trials. To date, Etisalat has demonstrated the highest data speed of 36Gbps, with Ooredoo conducting tests at 35.46Gbps.

Telstra in Australia recently made headlines by becoming the first network in the world to offer 4G LTE speeds in small areas of the country’s largest business districts.

Testing on the networks during its launch revealed that it was capable of speeds of around 900Mbps, placing it just below the goal of 1Gbps.

At the time, Ericsson – which partnered with Telstra to launch the new service – said that this was all part of a “smoother journey to 5G”.

It is estimated that the first large-scale commercial network will not be available until the end of the decade, however.

A proof-of-concept device

A spokesperson for ZTE said: “With the new device, the way people stay connected will be changed forever. Focusing on 5G technologies will be one of the key priorities of ZTE’s global development.”

Market analysts are not as enthusiastic about ZTE’s chances of ushering in a new era of high-end 5G speeds and VR, however. According to Thomas Husson from Forrester, this offering is just “a glimpse into the future”.

“The sad reality is that this smartphone will not end up in consumers’ pockets because both 5G and VR are still years away to be a mass-market consumer reality.”

While ZTE has not yet revealed when it would launch the phone, it said it would be able to reach high speeds on existing 4G networks by aggregating various 4G bands together to bring it close to 1Gbps.

ZTE stand at MWC 2015. Image: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic