Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 supports 60 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Qualcomm says users can expect 20x faster average performance in millimeter wave bands compared to some current commercial solutions. (Qualcomm)

For all the 5G fanfare that Qualcomm is getting for its Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform, it’s not neglecting Wi-Fi, the old standby that has been providing connectivity in homes and offices around the world.

While much of the wireless world is focused on 5G, Wi-Fi has taken its own steps to improve performance, with Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax coming down the pike. Qualcomm’s 855 5G platform includes a Wi-Fi 6-ready modem that allows for a substantial improvement in coverage, capacity and range, according to Durga Malladi, Qualcomm’s SVP, Engineering, and GM, 4G/5G, who presented the specs on stage at the Snapdragon Summit in Maui on Wednesday.  

Besides working at millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz spectrum, the Snapdragon 855 platform also includes 60 GHz connectivity, Bluetooth 5.0, and LTE Category 20.

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Malladi explained that the 60 GHz Wi-Fi capability allows devices to get up to 10 Gbps—which is like wireline speeds—and unleashes different commercial applications, both in consumer electronics and personal electronics like gaming.

The 8x8 sounding allows for Multi-User MIMO capability to be used while serving different users; end users will see an improvement in their average data rate, along with coverage, he said. It’s makes for a far more power-efficient device, allowing it to be used for a longer time, and security is enhanced with WPA3 support.

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Starting with the world’s first 5G mobile platform spanning millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz bands, “this platform allows mobile operators across the globe, starting from right here in the United States, Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea and eventually China, to launch 5G deployments without considering exactly which band it is that they’re worried about,” truly unleashing multi-Gigabit 5G connectivity, Malladi said.

It was just about two years back when Gigabit LTE was introduced to commercial environments; a consumer could walk into a store and buy a device with Gigabit-per-second LTE. Now Qualcomm is integrating 2 Gbps LTE connectivity—a combination of 20 layers of LTE, allowing mobile operators to mix and match different bands, whether it’s TDD or FDD, licensed or unlicensed, to get to 2 Gbps. “Quite an achievement” since the days of LTE when it was 100 Mbps or so, he said. “We’ve come a long way since then.”

5G also means there’s no more “falling back” to a previous generation of mobile technology like with earlier mobile technologies. The platform allows for devices to be simultaneously connected to both Gigabit LTE on one side and 5G on the other side. It doesn’t matter where the user is; the user is still connected to 4G in a 5G environment, he said.

What’s driving consumers and mobile operators to go ahead with 5G? “We talk about user experience in an abstract term, and yet there are some applications which are right in front of us,” he said. “In 5G, we have placed a lot of emphasis on significantly increasing the average data rate... Imagine if on average, you were to walk around in one of the dense urban areas and have something like 100-500 megabits per second, on an average… That is going to change the way we start to use our devices.”

4K streaming then becomes a more natural thing to do and network capacity improves. If you’re downloading a movie, it’s done in just a few seconds and the overall experience becomes much better. Low latency is another big part of 5G, which will improve things like AR, VR and gaming.

Notably, Qualcomm has deals with OEMs and operators around the world, which should lead to better economies of scale for everybody. The company presented a slide listing more than 20 mobile operators and more than 20 global OEMs that are on board, with “more to come.”