Why it matters: Qualcomm is putting itself in a position to exploit the potential of 5G from the get-go with its second generation Snapdragon X55 modem. 5G is going to be truly transformative although it'll probably still be a while before all of the early kinks are ironed out and everyone gets on the same page, standards-wise.

5G-enabled smartphones haven't even hit the market yet but that isn't stopping Qualcomm from advancing along its development roadmap. The chipmaker on Tuesday announced the Snapdragon X55, its second-generation 5G wireless modem.

The Snapdragon X55 is built on a 7-nanometer manufacturing process. It supports 5G NR mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrum bands with up to 7 gigabits per second (Gbps) download speeds and 3 Gbps upload speeds over 5G. The single-chip solution also supports Category 22 LTE with up to 2.5 Gbps LTE download speeds.

By comparison, the first-gen Snapdragon X50 that Qualcomm unveiled in late 2016 supported up to 5 gigabits per second download speeds (all theoretical, of course).

Qualcomm said the chip has been designed for a global 5G rollout with support for all major frequency bands as well as TDD and FDD modes of operations. It's additionally capable of both Standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) network deployments and has been engineered to support dynamic spectrum sharing between 4G and 5G services.

Qualcomm is already providing customers with samples and expects the chip to show up in commercial devices including smartphones, laptops, tablets and mobile hotspots by the end of the year.

Lead image via Justin Sullivan, Getty Images