Qualcomm unveils latest additions to 5G NR mmWave antenna modules—and they’re even smaller

Qualcomm 5G module
Qualcomm says the smaller modules will give OEMs more flexibility in their designs for 5G devices. (Qualcomm)

Qualcomm Technologies is once again acknowledging a “CDMA moment,” in the sense that it has not only miniaturized millimeter wave modules for smartphones—a feat that many questioned would ever happen, let alone this fast—but it has also managed to get them 25% smaller than before.

Qualcomm announced back in July the first QTM052 mmWave antenna modules, and at that time, it sounded like a CDMA moment. (Qualcomm invented CDMA, a rival to GSM that many critics argued would never see the light of day and yet it was adopted worldwide by many carriers, including Verizon and Sprint in the U.S.)

The company, which is holding its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong this week, says the new smaller antenna modules will enable OEMs to have more options for antenna placement in devices, giving them more freedom and flexibility in their 5G mmWave designs.

Qualcomm pennies
An illustration of the newer module compared to the previous one. (Qualcomm)

The QTM052 mmWave antenna modules pair with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem and feature a phased antenna array design in a small footprint, suitable for integrating up to four modules in a smartphone form factor. The modules support advanced beam forming, beam steering and beam tracking technologies, designed to improve the range and reliability of mmWave signals.

The modules also include an integrated 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end components and phased antenna array as well as support for up to 800 MHz of bandwidth in the 26.5-29.5,  27.5-28.35 and 37-40 GHz mmWave bands.

Most people thought it was impossible to miniaturize and use millimeter wave spectrum for mobile applications—and in fact, there’s still a lot of debate within the industry as to how successful that has become.

But Qualcomm was the first company to announce a 5G modem chipset last year, and it has been steadily out to prove the skeptics wrong, including using non-line-of-sight to make connectivity work with millimeter wave spectrum.  

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“We are continuing to push boundaries,” said Nitin Dhiman, staff manager, Product Marketing at Qualcomm Technologies. Progressively, “we’ve come to a point where we’re able to show a handset with mobility,” using millimeter wave spectrum with a live over-the-air configuration.

“I think we’ve put a lot of those concerns to rest. There’s still some ways to go,” until it’s actually rolled out in the world on a commercial scale, but with multiple operator announcements, “you can see that we’re pretty close,” he told FierceWirelessTech.

AT&T has promised to introduce a mobile 5G service this year using what it has described as a “puck-” like device, such as the kind one might use for a mobile hotspot. But 5G smartphones aren’t expected until 2019, when Sprint has promised to be first with a 5G mobile handset through its collaboration with LG.