Qualcomm Announces First All-Carrier-Ready 5G Modem

Qualcomm Announces First All-Carrier-Ready 5G Modem

On the surface, the 7-nanometre node chip is but a small upgrade of the Snapdragon X50 modem chip that's 5G ready and can be expected to pop up in the next wave of smartphones set to be launched at MWC next week.

The new Snapdragon X55 is built on an unspecified 7nm technology, while the previous gen X50 was rumoured to be built upon 10nm.

We're all expecting to see the first commercial 5G phones this year running on the Qualcomm X50 millimeter wave modem. Snapdragon X55 is created to accelerate global 5G rollout and bring 5G to a broad range of device categories and applications beyond smartphones, including hotspots, Wi-Fi routers, Always Connected PCs*, laptops, tablets, XR devices and connected cars.Combined with Qualcomm RF Front End solutions, the Snapdragon X55 is created to support high-power fixed wireless access (FWA) services and equipment. The LTE modem is a Snapdragon 855 SoC that can hit a theoretical top speed of 2Gbps down, and this year's Snapdragon X50 5G modem can theoretically do 5Gbps down, and this new X55 5G modem is technically rated for 7Gbps.

The X55 also supports virtually any band in any region around the world, which means manufacturers shouldn't have to produce different variants for different regions to cope with specific network demands. It now covers 26, 28, and 39GHz mmWave spectrum and Qualcomm continues to suggest that three or four of these will be needed per 5G phone.

Snapdragon X55 is part of a comprehensive modem-to-antenna solution which includes the baseband, RF IC, and complete RF front-end for mmWave and sub-6 GHz. Samsung and Huawei also now have 5G modems, but they don't put them into phones sold in the US. Beamforming is one of the key techniques in 5G and very high speeds and efficient mmWaves are possible thanks to beamforming.

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The Qualcomm QTM525 mmWave antenna module addresses one of the lingering concerns about mmWave: device thickness.

The first USA 5G phones, including the Galaxy S10, will work on millimeter-wave and TDD networks. That form-factor change - based on device-maker feedback, apparently - means it's flawless for phones under 8mm thick. The new chipset comes with some improvements over the X50, one of which is more gigabits giving it faster download speed. In contrast, the X55 will present far more scope for pairing 5G with other mobile processors.

Overall, the X55 modem is I think a much more future-proof and elegant solution than what we've seen presented in the X50. That's great for OEMs, but it could easily get confusing for consumers already uncertain about what 5G represents.

The X55 will appear in phones in the second half of this year, Qualcomm said. The new chip is still months away from product integration.

The success of 5G won't rely on its implementation in ACPCs; it's a natural evolution of mobile internet, and there's a whole smartphone market that will assure its saturation over the next several years. "We've said consistently that 2020 is really the volume year for 5G", Dhiman points out, at which point carriers will be further along in their network deployment, device-makers will have hopefully ironed out the inevitable hiccups in first-gen devices, and - though they may not use Qualcomm silicon - Apple's first 5G iPhones will undoubtedly be juicing attention in the technology.