Korean tech giant Samsung claims to have wrestled back the 5G speed record but, as ever, that requires careful qualification.

A trial managed to hit 5.23 Gbps to a single device. It was done in lab conditions but using commercial kit. All of these details are important when it comes to the 5G speed record because last April Samsung claimed a speed of 8.5 Gbps, but that was to two devices – i.e. 4.25 Gbps to each. More recently Nokia tried the same trick, but over a commercial network and then Etisalat made an almost entirely unqualified claim to 9.1 Gbps.

It’s not remotely surprising for telco markers to throw dubious claims about but they, in turn, shouldn’t be surprised if those are taken with a healthy pinch of salt. Samsung, to be fair, has offered a fair bit of detail about how it achieved its latest feat, but it should be stressed that the record was broken in lab conditions.

The main difference between this record and last April’s, apart from the single device, is that Samsung’s boffins have managed to find a way to augment mmWave beams with whatever spare 4G frequency they find down the back of the sofa. The new tech is called E-UTRAN New Radio Dual Connectivity (EN-DC) and, in this case, it allowed 800 MHz of mmWave to be augmented by 40 MHz of unspecified 4G frequency.

“Through this demonstration, Samsung is proud to achieve another breakthrough record in 5G data speeds, now spotlighting the power of using a dual 4G and 5G approach, delivered directly to a single user,” said Ji-Yun Seol, Head of the Air Technology Group at Samsung. “This reinforces our commitment to delivering the best possible 5G solutions to our customers and our ongoing support to help mobile operators accelerate the benefits of 5G services to their users.”

While we don’t doubt the cleverness of EN-DC it’s not immediately obvious what use it is. We don’t know how much of the ~20% speed boost Samsung has managed over its last effort is down to the 5% top-up of spectrum made possible by this technology, but it surely can’t be much. The big issue with mmWave is its poor range and propagation properties and it seems a bit of a waste to shackle perfectly decent low-frequency spectrum to it just to be able to claim a new record.

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