Samsung has announced the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ after many months of speculation, and this launch marks a new approach to 5G. With the Galaxy S10 launch, there was a completely different piece of hardware for 5G, but the Note 10 and 10+ both come in 5G variants. However, the band support is shaping up to be a complete mess with some carriers supporting one type of 5G and others using frequencies that barely exist on their networks.
According to PCMag, Samsung is still scrambling to put the finishing touches on the 5G modems it will use in the Note 10. Verizon gets first dibs on the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G (the smaller Note 10 5G is exclusive to South Korea for now). It will have the same Qualcomm X50 5G modem we’ve seen in devices like the Galaxy S10 5G and 5G Moto Mod. It will run on millimeter wave 5G in eight cities just like previous 5G phones. We don’t know yet if it will overheat when the outside ambient temperature exceeds ~85F / 29C. The currently-available solutions, which do overheat, are also based on the Qualcomm X50.
Verizon’s millimeter wave 5G network is very fast with speeds over 1Gbps. However, coverage is extremely limited because of the high frequencies involved (28 and 39GHz). It’s similar for the early millimeter wave networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. Those carriers are hoping to fill in the gaps with low-frequency 5G similar to LTE, but speeds will top out around 100Mbps.
PCMag reports that T-Mobile and AT&T will have versions of the Note 10+ 5G that only operate on these lower frequencies via the new X55 5G modem — they plan to start rolling out low-band 5G late this year. The X50 lacks support for low-frequency, but it sounds like the X55 can’t do both low-band and millimeter wave at the same time.
Sprint is in a good place with 5G, which is why T-Mobile is acquiring the carrier. Its mid-band 5G (2.5GHz) is faster than low-band, but has much better coverage than millimeter wave. Sprint will have a Galaxy Note 10+ 5G later this year as well, but it will have to choose whether it wants low-band and mid-band (the X55) or millimeter wave and mid-band (the X50).
Qualcomm has been pushing the X55 has a modem that can do both low and high-band 5G, but Samsung hasn’t been able to make that work yet. Perhaps it’s something to do with the antenna setup? There are a lot of unknowns, and the 5G situation may change by later this year when carriers get the Note 10+ 5G.