October 17, 2016
Qualcomm Technologies introduced the company’s first 5G modem at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong
Qualcomm Technologies prides itself on being a wireless technology leader. It’s at the very heart of our identity, the core of what defines and drives us. Our inventions have pushed the boundaries of wireless technology for decades.
And now the company that brought you 3G and 4G is doing it again. Today, we’re announcing the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem. It is Qualcomm Technologies' first 5G modem, and it will help usher in a new generation of cellular services.
With this announcement, 5G becomes more than just an ambitious collection of ideas about what the future of cellular systems should look like and what it will make possible. Qualcomm Technologies has led the 5G conversation, and now we’re leading the way with the realization of actual 5G products.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem is a remarkable milestone in and of itself. But its capabilities are even more impressive. It’s engineered to support unprecedented download speeds of up to 5Gbps. It is designed to achieve these breathtaking speeds by utilizing very wide bandwidths available in the 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) band combined with advanced signal processing technologies.
Given the challenges posed by the propagation characteristics of mmWave spectrum, many had speculated that mmWave would be confined to fixed wireless applications. But the X50 modem bears the Snapdragon name and is made by Qualcomm Technologies, so naturally, it’s built from the ground up for mobility.
Years of research and development have allowed us to invent technologies to overcome mmWave’s limitations. Instead of using only a handful of antennas (as with 4G), the Snapdragon X50 5G modem relies on multi-element antenna arrays. The antennas are designed to work together intelligently, using beamforming and beam tracking technologies, extending mmWave’s mobility and reach to non-line-of-sight scenarios. For example, the Snapdragon X50 5G modem can direct the energy of the mmWave beam, bouncing off obstacles to reach the mmWave 5G small cell with which it is communicating.
But what happens when the 5G device moves completely out of range of the 5G small cell? This is where our leadership in 4G LTE will play a crucial role. Just today, Qualcomm Technologies, along with Telstra, Ericsson, and NETGEAR, announced the first commercial Gigabit Class LTE device and network. Gigabit Class LTE is now a reality, and again we’re at the forefront. It’s our firm belief that Gigabit Class LTE will be the advanced coverage layer that co-exists, and interworks, with 5G deployments.
This means that when a mobile device moves out of the range of the 5G small cell, LTE will provide the coverage. The drop in broadband speed during this transition won’t be precipitous; after all, it’s inconceivable that people will tolerate a drop from multi-gigabit per second peak download speeds to only a few hundred megabits. Application developers should be able to count on a predictable high-speed mobile broadband link to the device to develop new generations of applications, services, and user experiences. With Gigabit Class LTE, the experience will be much more uniform in those mobility scenarios, emboldening developers and delighting users.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem is designed to make this seamless mobility possible. It can be paired with a Snapdragon processor with an integrated Gigabit Class LTE modem. In addition to supporting 4G LTE and mmWave 5G, the complete 4G/5G multi-mode platform is designed to help provide dual-connectivity to both (so a mobile device can connect simultaneously over both generations of technology) to achieve seamless mobility between the two.
This type of multi-mode capability was crucial for the success of 4G LTE technology, as 3G/4G multi-mode devices based on Qualcomm Technologies' chipsets were able to fall back to 3G wherever 4G coverage wasn’t available in nascent networks. Here we are at the cusp of a new generation of cellular networks, and multi-mode capability will once again be supporting the success of the fledgling generation. That’s why leadership in 4G is critical in order to lead the way to 5G.
Though the Snapdragon X50 5G modem represents many firsts for the industry and Qualcomm Technologies, our sights are set on the ultimate goal: a true, global standard for 5G. This is coming to fruition: We’re an active contributor and champion of the 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem is expected to begin sampling in the second half of 2017, and the first products integrating it are expected to surface throughout 2018. As we take on the challenge of integrating new mmWave technology into commercial devices, we’ll learn a lot. We can use this learning to accelerate the finalization of the 5G NR standard and usher in 5G NR networks and devices.
We are pleased to help usher in the 5G era with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, and will work diligently to bring it to an entirely new generation of cellular devices and networks.