While the world waits for the arrival of high-speed 5G mobile connectivity, Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X24 LTE modem can boost 4G network download speeds to as much as 2 gigabits per second (Gbps), the company said today.

For comparison's sake, the average 4G download speed is 16.6 megabits per second (Mbps), according to the November "State of LTE" report from mobile network performance monitoring company OpenSignal. And the world's fastest networks -- found in South Korea and Singapore -- have yet to pass 50 Mbps.

Qualcomm said the Snapdragon X24 is the first gigabit LTE modem to reach 2 Gbps and will pave the way for devices and networks that can eventually support 5G speeds. Qualcomm plans to demonstrate the modem at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which runs from Feb. 26 through March 1.

The company is set to begin 5G trials shortly with a number of wireless network operators that will test its Snapdragon X50 modem, reported to achieve download speeds of more than 4 Gbps.

5G Due in 2019

The Snapdragon X24 is Qualcomm's third-generation gigabit LTE modem and the first to be built using a 7-nanometer FinFET process, the company said. The modem doubles the download speeds provided by Qualcomm's first-generation gigabit LTE modem and supports up to 20 concurrent LTE streams, also a first, according to Qualcomm.

The new modem will help provide the gigabit-level network and device connections needed when 5G starts launching, most likely in 2019, Serge Willenegger, Qualcomm's senior vice president and general manager of 4G/5G and Industrial Internet of Things, said today in a statement.

The modem's gigabit-level download speeds and other advanced capabilities will help "mobile operators to fully mobilize their spectrum assets and maximize the capacity of their Gigabit LTE networks, and mobile device makers to offer consumers a tangible glimpse of our 5G future," Willenegger said. The first commercial devices to feature the Snapdragon X24 are expected to arrive on the market by the end of the year, according to Qualcomm.

Competition for Intel

Earlier this week, Verizon said it had taken another step toward 5G connectivity by demonstrating an over-the-air call using a prototype device from Qualcomm. Verizon is working to deploy 5G technology this year using millimeter-wave spectrum, and the other major U.S. operators -- AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint -- have all been also rolling out 5G tests and pilots.

Qualcomm's X24 modem also underscores "the need for competition in the wireless ecosystem," Patrick Moorhead, founder, president, and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, wrote today in a commentary in Forbes. Noting that Intel had previously announced plans to ship a 1.6 Gbps LTE modem next year, Moorhead said, "Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X24 sets a standard for high-performance LTE in a way that puts the goal posts out for Intel and others that will be difficult to meet."

With support for download speeds of up to 10 Gbps, 5G networks are expected to help usher in a wide variety of new services and technologies using virtual reality and augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, Internet of Things devices, and more.