Which comes first, the cart or the horse? While Qualcomm has been promoting its “always-connected PC” concept for years now, US buyers have had pretty few options so far. Today, Qualcomm swore that 5G-connected PCs will come to Verizon and Sprint in the US. But the company wouldn’t specify models, dates, prices, or service plans, leaving plenty of room for the wireless carriers to mess this up.
“5G will transform and redefine the PC user experience across global networks,” said Keith Kressin, SVP of Product Management at Qualcomm, in a press release. “The hours spent downloading or uploading large files will become a thing of the past, with ultra-fast connectivity improving workflow, entertainment experiences, and more.”
He’s not wrong, at least in the long run. As I saw when I was using 5G on a Samsung Galaxy Fold in Korea, a good 5G connection makes remote files feel like local files. Especially for people who work a lot with cloud services—Citrix, OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, databases—that means a much smoother workflow.
Lenovo announced its first Qualcomm-based 5G laptop, the Yoga 5G, in January (shown above), but it has no price, sale date, or service plans. Dell and HP plan laptops for 2021, but a competing, upcoming MediaTek solution prompted PCMag’s Tom Brant to suggest you wait until 2021 to buy 5G-connected PCs.
If anything, the painful sparseness of Qualcomm’s announcement shows how the wireless carriers are firmly in control of this rollout, and how Qualcomm may be having trouble dragging them along.
Always-connected PCs scare carriers because they tend to use huge amounts of data. One of the promises of 5G is massively more capacity, but that will only come with mid-band or high-band 5G, not the low-band “nationwide” 5G that AT&T and T-Mobile have been rolling out.
Verizon and Sprint have high-band and mid-band 5G, respectively. But Verizon’s coverage so far has been extremely limited, and Sprint’s rollout has been slowed by its endless merger drama with T-Mobile. The carriers may be holding off until they can offer better networks to 5G PC consumers.