EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Qualcomm Technologies EVP Cristiano Amon said he believes “without a doubt” 5G can be a commercial reality as soon as early 2019.

Though the industry was early on looking at a timeframe of 2020 to 2021 for commercial 5G launches, Amon said a confluence of factors brought the timeline forward substantially. He pointed to the acceleration of 3GPP’s 5G standards programme and moves by regulators around the world to free up sub-6GHz and millimetre wave spectrum as key elements in this shift.

Qualcomm also sped up its own work to develop the 5G-capable X50 chipset. Though some have expressed scepticism about the ability to fit 5G technology in a smartphone form factor, Amon said a prototype device Qualcomm debuted at MWC Americas earlier this month (operating in millimetre wave spectrum bands above 24GHz) proves it’s possible. Amon also noted operators around the world are engaging in field trials throughout this year and into 2018 to test 5G network equipment.

“This is all leading to having the industry maturity to start launching commercial services in the beginning of ’19 – that’s a full year acceleration,” Amon said.

“Maybe that’s going to be a key event at MWC 2019, you know, commercial flagship smartphones with 5G technology.”

More on what Amon thinks those 5G devices will look like and what capabilities they’ll enable for consumers can be found in the full interview here.