Qualcomm Technologies (QTI) announced the availability of its Snapdragon X50 5G modem this week (18 October 2016.) The 5G standard does not yet exist and specifications are not expected to be finalised until 2019, while new spectrum bands for 5G have also yet to be agreed.
However, what the X50 5G is designed to do in the interim period is support original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in building the next generation of cellular devices, as well as aid operators with early 5G trials and deployments.
The Snapdragon X50 5G platform will include the modem, the SDR051 mmWave transceivers, and the supporting PMX50 power management chip. Sampling for the Snapdragon X50 5G modem is expected to begin in the second half of 2017. The first commercial products that will integrate the Snapdragon X50 5G modem are expected to be available during the first half of 2018.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem will initially support operation in millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum in the 28GHz band. It will employ Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques, which facilitates robust and sustained mobile broadband communications in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments.
With 800 MHz bandwidth support, the Snapdragon X50 5G modem is designed to support peak download speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second.
Designed to be used for multi-mode 4G/5G mobile broadband, as well as fixed wireless broadband devices, the Snapdragon X50 5G modem can be paired with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with an integrated Gigabit LTE modem and interwork cohesively via dual-connectivity. Gigabit LTE will become an essential pillar for the 5G mobile experience, as it can provide a wide coverage layer for nascent 5G networks.
"The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase," said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, and president, QCT. "Utilising our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality. This shows that we're not just talking about 5G, we're truly committed to it."
With the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, operators deploying mmWave 5G networks can now work closely with QTI to conduct lab tests, field trials and early network deployments. Additionally, OEMs utilising the Snapdragon X50 5G modem will have an opportunity to gain an early start in optimizing their devices for the unique challenges associated with integrating mmWave.
Incorporating the Snapdragon X50 5G modem in devices on a live 5G network can yield valuable insight into the challenges of integrating emerging technologies in form-factor accurate devices. QTI will utilise these insights to help accelerate the standardisation and commercialisation of 5G New Radio (NR), the global standard for 5G.
For consumers, enhanced mobile broadband supported by 5G will bring unprecedented immediacy between mobile users and cloud services, enhancing media consumption, improving media generation and offering even faster access to rich information. Additionally, the proliferation of 5G technology can make it more cost-effective and easier for multi-gigabit Internet service to reach more homes and businesses, according to Qualcomm.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem builds on QTI's long history of delivering industry-leading orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) chips and technology, previously demonstrated by the company's industry leadership in several generations of LTE technology and products, as well as mmWave and massive MIMO architectures in 802.11ad products.