OnePlus used to be a small niche player in the smartphone world. It’s still not the equal of Samsung or LG, but OnePlus could be on the verge of a breakthrough moment. According to OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, the company will be among the first to launch a 5G smartphone in 2019 — it may even be the very first.
Ever since its first phone, OnePlus has worked closely with Qualcomm on SoC and modem technology. OnePlus phones are always running the latest Qualcomm hardware, and they cost much less than other similarly specced phones. So, it’s no great surprise that OnePlus would be quick to adopt 5G in phones.
Pei notes that OnePlus has already completed a 5G test at Qualcomm’s headquarters in San Francisco. That test would have relied on hardware like the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, but it’s unclear what OnePlus will use in its upcoming phone. The X50 is a standalone 5G device, so the device would need to use the LTE modem in the Snapdragon system-on-a-chip (SoC) to connect most of the time. Motorola’s solution is to sell a Mod add-on for the Moto Z3 that contains its own battery and 5G modem.
A future Qualcomm SoC will surely integrate 5G, but no one knows when that will happen. Qualcomm has announced a slimmer QTM052 5G antenna (see below) that could help make 5G phones less bulky. LTE connectivity will remain the most important part of a smartphone’s modem setup into the foreseeable future. Current 5G implementations utilize mostly millimeter wave frequencies that can push vast bandwidth. However, they’re unable to pass through even thin obstacles. If you’re inside any building without an indoor 5G network, you’ll be on LTE.
The announcement of a 5G phone comes as OnePlus is scheduled to launch the OnePlus 6T in a few days. This phone will decidedly not be 5G-enabled. However, it might launch on T-Mobile, which would be a big step for OnePlus. T-Mobile also plans to launch its 5G network next year. That could mean that OnePlus is a launch partner for T-Mobile’s 5G network.
OnePlus launches two flagship phones per year — one in late fall and one in late spring. Depending on how early in 2019 the 5G launch happens, the mysterious device could be a custom carrier version of the OnePlus 6T or it could be the successor to that phone.

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