Qualcomm has unveiled the “world’s first fully-integrated 5G NR millimetre wave (mmWave) and sub-6GHz RF modules” for smartphones and other mobile devices. With this announcement, the chipmaker has solved a major issue with a 5G rollout, that is, to produce eligible millimetre wave antennas that can fit inside modern smartphones. In terms of the rollout of a network standard like 5G, there are several moving parts and obstacles. The new Qualcomm QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the Qualcomm QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family pair with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, and promises to deliver modem-to-antenna capabilities across several spectrum bands. The company says that it will now be done in a very compact footprint that is suited for integration in mobile devices. Meanwhile, Qualcomm separately also took a jab at Apple and its iPhone X, by flaunting its latest Snapdragon 845 with its X20 LTE modem.
The 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum operates at a higher frequency than 4G, and in turn, provides more bandwidth at faster speeds and lower latency. While it may come with a promise of high-speed and higher bandwidth for modern smartphones, until now, mmWave signals have never been used for mobile wireless communications due to the several technical and design challenges. Qualcomm says these problems impact almost every aspect of device engineering, including materials, form-factor, industrial design, thermals, and regulatory requirements for radiated power. A number of companies have considered mmWave highly impractical for mobile devices and networks, and thus unlikely to materialise. To overcome the problems, there is a requirement of multiple mmWave antennas, but they have been too big to fit inside of a smartphone.
The QTM052 mmWave antenna modules by Qualcomm work in tandem with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem to help overcome the challenges associated with mmWave. Qualcomm says in blog post, they support advanced beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking technologies, drastically improving the range and reliability of mmWave signals. They feature an integrated 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end components and phased antenna array. Also, they support up to 800MHz of bandwidth in the 26.5GHz to 29.5GHz (n257), as well as the entire 27.5GHz to 28.35 GHz (n261) and 37GHz to 40 GHz (n260) mmWave bands.
However, the most important thing is that the QTM052 modules integrate all the functionalities in a compact footprint. Qualcomm says that up to four of the models can be integrated into a smartphone. This will allow manufacturers to continue offering smaller form factors along with 5G speeds.
Qualcomm claims that such handsets will be available for launch as early as the first half of 2019. It says that both the QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family are now sampling to customers.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm has published a blog post touting the superiority of its Snapdragon 845 SoC with integrated X20 LTE modem. Taking a dig at Apple, it compared its SoC to other competing chips such as the Intel XMM 7480, which is the LTE chip used in iPhone X models. Citing an Ookla speed-test comparison, Qualcomm said that Snapdragon 845 Android smartphones have double-digit gains in latency and triple-digit gains in download and upload speeds versus Intel-based non-Android smartphones.