First 5G modem announced

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Qualcomm – perhaps best known for providing smartphone chipsets and processors – has revealed it is producing a 5G modem.

The company said this made it the first business to “announce a commercial 5G modem chipset solution”.

Qualcomm said the Snapdragon X50 5G modem has been designed to support original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) involved in building the next generation of mobile devices. It is also intended to aid operators with early 5G trials and deployments.

According to Qualcomm, its 5G modem will initially support operation in millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band. It will employ Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques. The company said this facilitates “robust and sustained mobile broadband communications in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments”.

With 800 MHz bandwidth support, the Qualcomm 5G modem has been designed to support peak download speeds of up to five gigabits per second.

“The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase,” said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies and president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT).

He added: “Utilising our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality.”

According to the company, operators deploying mmWave 5G networks will be able to work closely with Qualcomm to conduct lab tests, field trials and early network deployments. It added that OEMs utilising the Snapdragon X50 5G modem will have the chance to gain an early start in optimising their devices for what it called “the unique challenges associated with integrating mmWave”.

Qualcomm said it will utilise insights gained by incorporating the X50 5G modem in devices on a live 5G network to help accelerate the standardisation and commercialisation of 5G New Radio (NR), which is the global standard for 5G.

The enhanced mobile broadband provided by 5G is intended to provide unprecedented immediacy between mobile users and cloud services, which should allow for more high quality media consumption, improving the generation of media and faster access to rich information.

Wider use of 5G technology could also make it more cost-effective and easier for multi-gigabit internet service to be supplied to more businesses and homes.

The Snapdragon X50 5G platform will include the modem, the SDR051 mmWave transceivers, and the supporting PMX50 power management chip, according to Qualcomm.

Sampling for the modem is currently expected to begin in the second half of 2017. The first commercial products to integrate the X50 modem are predicted to be available during the first half of 2018.