Qualcomm’s second-generation 5G modem is getting support for sub-6 GHz spectrum bands and FDD mode to help accelerate 5G device rollouts.
The Snapdragon X55, unveiled Tuesday, is an integrated single chip that supports 5G millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz spectrum bands, and both non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) network deployments. FDD support in addition to TDD is one key new feature of the 5G to 2G multimode modem. The 7 nm X55 is the world’s first 7 Gbps 5G modem in terms of downlink, along with Category 22 LTE capable of download speeds of up 2.5 Gbps.
The latest version follows Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50, which supports millimeter wave bands and will power early 5G smartphones expected to launch in the first half of this year. Major carriers like Verizon and AT&T have promised mmWave-capable 5G phones early this year using Qualcomm’s X50 5G NR modem and antenna modules, though Qualcomm said many operators with FDD spectrum have been waiting for a solution capable of support.
Qualcomm says the new X55 modem will help accelerate 5G rollouts because the product enables any flavor of 5G or combination of 4G and legacy modes that an operator may require. It also provides flexibility with both 5G SA and NSA support, so operators not ready to move directly to 5G can anchor in the 4G band with NSA. The modem supports spectrum sharing between 4G and 5G, which enables operators to use existing LTE spectrum and deploy 5G services while simultaneously supporting 4G.
While predecessor Snapdragon X50 is powering the first 5G smartphones and mobile hotspots, the X55 is built to also help bring 5G to new product categories like laptops, tablets, connected cars and WiFi routers. Qualcomm’s Nitin Dhiman, staff manager for product marketing, said it’s not clear which of these new products will debut in 2019, but smartphones powered by the X55 should be coming out later this year. AT&T executives previously said that the carrier planned to introduce a sub-6 GHz capable smartphone from Samsung in the second half of 2019, and has committed to deliver a nationwide 5G networking using sub-6 GHz spectrum in early 2020.
The pace of 5G commercialization has been speeding ahead compared to past generations, and is poised to ramp up further in the coming year. According Viavi’s recent The State of 5G Deployments report, 13 commercial 5G networks launched in 2018 globally (including both mobile and fixed), and that figure is expected to more than triple in 2019.
A separate report from Cisco, released Tuesday, forecasts more than 422 million global 5G device and M2M connections by 2022, representing more than 3 percent of total mobile connections and accounting for nearly 12 percent of global mobile data traffic.
The Snapdragon X55 5G modem is out and sampling to customers, with Dhiman indicating that all of the chip giant’s premium tier customers will be using the X55 — just who will first debut commercial devices using the platform is yet to be seen.
Working in conjunction with the X55 modem, Qualcomm announced its second-generation millimeter wave antenna module the QTM525, now with support for 26 GHz band in addition to 28 and 39 GHz. The height has been shrunken to work with 5G smartphone deigns thinner than 8 millimeters.
Qualcomm also introduced sub-6 GHz RF front-end modules and a single-chip 14 nm RF transceiver for 5G sub-6 GHz and LTE.
The X55 also supports 100 MHz envelope tracking technology and Qualcomm’s 5G NR adaptive antenna tuning solution for 5G sub-6 GHz, delivering dramatic improvements in throughput and enhanced power efficiency.
All of the newly introduced products work closely together, delivering a comprehensive modem-to-antenna solution.
“OEMs face a range of formidable design challenges when it comes to 5G. The need to support multimode operation from 5G to 2G, along with an ever-increasing number of band combinations, brings unprecedented complexity,” said Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm Incorporated, in a statement. “Discrete modem or RF solutions are no longer sufficient. Qualcomm Technologies is unique in the mobile industry by offering a comprehensive modem-to-antenna solution, and we are pioneering efforts in all aspects of 5G and ready to enable our customers with these capabilities to help them commercialize the first wave of 5G devices this year.”
At Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019 next week, Qualcomm will be showcasing 5G tech with demos across applications and use cases, including 5G NR mmWave for indoor use such as private enterprise and high-density venues, boundless extended reality (XR), and Industrial IoT demos showcasing enhanced ultra-reliable low-latency communication for future factories, among others.