Qualcomm expands RFFE modules to auto, IoT

For Qualcomm, it’s clearly not just about phones anymore. The company today announced new RF Front-End (RFFE) modules targeted for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6E and the next-generation standard, Wi-Fi 7.

The modules are designed for an array of device segments beyond smartphones, including automotive, XR, PCs, wearables, mobile broadband, IoT and more.

In fiscal year 2021, Qualcomm reached the No. 1 position in RFFE revenues for handsets. Now its goal is to be the global No. 1 for all these business segments, according to Christian Block, senior vice president and general manager, RFFE, at Qualcomm Germany.

In automotive, the design pipeline already looks great, but the company isn’t revealing which automakers or models it’s dealing with, he said during a media briefing.

Wi-Fi front end modules are integrated RF components that help amplify and route signals between the Wi-Fi System on a Chip (SoC) and the antenna; these components typically consist of power amplifiers, low noise amplifiers, filters and switches packaged inside a module. An end device usually includes a front-end module for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth frequencies, as well as 5-7 GHz Wi-Fi, according to a blog post.

The new modules announced today feature 5G/Wi-Fi coexistence capabilities, complementing Qualcomm’s ultraBAW filters to allow 5G/Wi-Fi concurrency, enhancing wireless performance in cellular devices, according to the company.

Increasingly complex landscape

In a research note, ABI Research analyst David McQueen said the expansion of Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz band and the emergence of the new Wi-Fi 7 standard are causing unprecedented technology complexity and challenges in the way the radio is designed and implemented. The challenges are very similar to those encountered when the industry migrated to LTE Advanced Pro and 5G, which pushed many smartphone OEMs to delegate their RF system design to Qualcomm, he said.

“In a similar fashion, creating high-performance Wi-Fi modems will not be enough to differentiate in the Wi-Fi 7 market if this is not aligned with strong radio designs using cutting-edge RFFE components,” he said. “This is where Qualcomm’s latest offerings are brought into stark relief, building on the company’s unique expertise and know-how through offering end-to-end cellular connectivity solutions from the antenna to the modem. With these new Wi-Fi FEMs, Qualcomm has put itself in a prime position to leverage this expertise in the increasingly complex Wi-Fi technology landscape, to address new market opportunities beyond smartphones and support both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity across multiple markets.”

The new front end modules are currently sampling to customers. Commercial devices with the new solutions are expected to launch by the second half of this year.