Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem
Qualcomm unveiled its first pre-standard 5G modem -- the Snapdragon X50 -- on Monday evening.
The Snapdragon X50 5G modem is initially equipped to operate in the 28GHz millimeter wave band and will offer speeds of up to 5 Gbit/s using as much as 800MHz in radio bandwidth, using combined radio channels of 100MHz each. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), T-Mobile US Inc. , and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are all now testing 5G systems in the US, with SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) walking a similar path in South Korea. (See AT&T, Samsung & Friends Plot Crisp 5G Demos for the Fall.)
See video on the new modem from Qualcomm below:
The X50 will support Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna arrays and adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques. Beamforming is a concept that has its roots in sonar. In recent years it has become commonly used in WiFi routers, and is now gaining new currency as a 5G technology. Adaptive beamforming means that the system locks onto a single user device, using the antenna array for the best signal path. (See Vivato Switches Sides and Samsung, SKT Take Step Closer to 'Real' 5G.)
Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) says that the chipset can be used in fixed 5G equipment as well as mobile user devices. It is also designed to be twinned with Qualcomm 4G LTE modem.
The modem will be aimed at fixed wireless devices in US, where Verizon is at the forefront of pushing an initial fixed broadband vision for 5G. In South Korea, meanwhile, Qualcomm is aiming at the tablet form factor.
The radio has been built using the early Verizon group 5G radio specification. The intention, however, is to work towards the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G "New Radio" specification as that evolves. (See 3GPP Wants to Complete Initial 5G Radio Spec in June 2018 and Verizon Issues First 5G Radio Spec.)
The modem will start sampling in the second half of 2017, so that device developers can use the initial silicon to design devices around. The X50 is expected to arrive in devices in the first half of 2018, so that Qualcomm can support live network trials and device testing.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading