Given that most operators have fragmented spectrum assets, having the ability to flexibly aggregate across various spectrum band combinations is a big value proposition, one that Qualcomm Technologies is addressing in its new Snapdragon X60 Modem-RF System for 5G devices.
Announced today, it’s the third generation 5G modem-to-antenna solution in the Qualcomm family, featuring what’s being described as the world’s first 5G Modem-RF system to support spectrum aggregation across all key 5G bands and combinations, including millimeter wave (mmWave) and sub-6 GHz using frequency division duplex (FDD) and time division duplex (TDD).
Other key aspects of the X60 are a 5-nanometer 5G baseband—for power efficiency and board space savings—and Voice-over-New Radio (VoNR) to support voice services on standalone (SA) 5G networks.
It’s worth noting that Qualcomm’s prior X55 Modem-RF System also supports FDD and TDD. In the U.S., Sprint, which is being merged with T-Mobile, uses TDD, while Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile use FDD.
With support for both, the Qualcomm modems give operators the flexibility to use either one or both TDD and FDD. For example, in Europe, many operators have launched 5G using TDD in band n77 (~3.5 GHz) but will want to also make use of lower FDD bands for broad coverage, either assigning them directly for 5G or using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) for concurrent 4G/5G operation, noted Ignacio Contreras, senior director of 5G marketing at Qualcomm.
The Snapdragon X60 also features the new Qualcomm QTM535 mmWave antenna module, which was engineered for superior mmWave performance, according to the company. The module features a more compact design than the previous generation for thinner, sleeker smartphones.
Qualcomm said its latest 5G modem-to-antenna solution can deliver up to 7.5 gigabits per second download speeds and 3 Gbps upload speeds, and the aggregation of sub-6 GHz spectrum in standalone mode allows the doubling of peak data rates in 5G standalone mode compared to solutions with no carrier aggregation support.
Qualcomm emphasized its ability to supply a complete solution, and it’s been increasingly putting emphasis on the RF front end. During the company’s latest earnings conference call, CEO Steve Mollenkopf said virtually all of its 5G Snapdragon design wins are using its RF front-end solutions for 5G sub-6 GHz and/or mmWave, including design wins based on its second-generation solutions.
Samples of Snapdragon X60 and the QTM535 mmWave antenna module are scheduled to ship in the first quarter of 2020, with commercial premium smartphones using the new Modem-RF System expected in early 2021.