Qualcomm chips to extend 5G to more affordable smartphones

Qualcomm booth
Qualcomm also said its technology will make fixed wireless access (FWA) more affordable. (Fierce Wireless)

Qualcomm Technologies plans to extend its portfolio of 5G platforms across the Snapdragon 6, 7 and 8 Series in 2020, meaning 5G will be coming to more affordable smartphones. The company made the announcement at IFA 2019 in Berlin.

The company said Snapdragon’s expanded portfolio of 5G mobile platforms is designed to support all key regions and frequency bands—and it pretty much runs the gamut, covering mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrum, TDD and FDD modes, 5G multi-SIM, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, and Standalone (SA) and Non-standalone (NSA) network architectures.

Qualcomm noted that its flagship, high-end Snapdragon 8 Series is powering 5G mobile devices that were introduced globally in 2019, and it said that more details on the next generation Snapdragon 8 Series 5G Mobile Platform will come later this year.

To put it in perspective, CNBC noted that phones that run on Qualcomm’s 8 series chips right now can range in price from around $500 to more than $1,000, depending on the processor and if you add in 5G. However, phones running on Snapdragon 6 series processors cost as little as $299, so if those phones are given the option for 5G, it will become more affordable.

Already, 12 global OEMs and brands, including LG, OPPO, Vivo, Motorola and HMD Global—which makes Nokia-branded phones—plan to use the new integrated Snapdragon 7 Series 5G mobile platform in future 5G mobile devices.

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The integrated Snapdragon 7 Series 5G Mobile Platform began sampling to customers in the second quarter of 2019 and devices with that platform are expected to start launching sometime after the fourth quarter of this year. The Series 6 platform will make even more devices 5G-capable and those are expected to be commercial in the second half of 2020.

New FWA antenna module

Qualcomm also announced that while it already supports fixed wireless access (FWA) solutions, it’s adding to its portfolio with the QTM527 mmWave antenna module, which it says it “truly groundbreaking” in that it’s the first announced fully-integrated extended-range mmWave antenna module built specifically for 5G FWA CPEs.

Paired with its Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System comprising of the modem, RF transceiver, RF front-end and antenna modules, QTM527 delivers a “comprehensive modem-to-antenna system for flexible, cost-effective, high performance 5G mmWave CPE designs.”

The QTM527 integrates a 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end components and a phased antenna array. It also supports beam forming, beam steering and beam tracking for bi-directional mobile mmWave communication, as well as up to 2x2 MIMO in both downlink and uplink. The first high-power mmWave CPE devices are expected to arrive in the first half of 2020.

For operators, the extended-range 64-antenna QTM527 solution should help them use their existing mobile network to provide wider coverage, thereby improving that age-old problem of the economics of fixed wireless deployments, according to Qualcomm.

5G beyond smartphones

During his IFA keynote, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said the year 2019 is a significant moment because it will fuel a new era of innovation and significant growth for the wireless industry beyond traditional applications.

5G is going to lead to a future where everything is going to be connected to the cloud. That will mean more connected devices with the ability to benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) and the capabilities associated with the cloud; Qualcomm believes that 5G and AI will evolve side by side, transforming industries and creating new jobs.

He also talked about how fast 5G is coming around the world. By comparison, 4G had a handful of carriers and a few devices in its first year, with limited geography. With 5G, for the first time, a wireless transition is happening in all the leading economies in the world. More than 20 operators in 10 countries, with more to be announced this year, are launching 5G.