The Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset delivered gigabit speeds and a data connection in the 28GHz mmWave radio frequency band.
Qualcomm Technologies also previewed its first 5G smartphone reference design for the testing and optimization of 5G technology within the power and form-factor constraints of a smartphone.
The US-based chipset major said Snapdragon X50 5G NR modem is expected to support commercial launches of 5G smartphones and networks in the first half of 2019.
“This major milestone and our 5G smartphone reference design showcase how Qualcomm Technologies is driving 5G NR in mobile devices to enhance mobile broadband experiences for consumers,” said Cristiano Amon, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and president, QCT.
The 5G data connection demonstration took place in Qualcomm Technologies’ laboratories in San Diego. It achieved gigabit download speeds, using several 100 MHz 5G carriers, and demonstrated a data connection in 28 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.
“5G modem announcement, its first 5G data connection and the creation of a prototype 5G device that operates in the 28GHz band illustrate that the industry is now at a phase where 5G is evolving from a concept to actual hardware that will be optimized, miniaturized and commercialized,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, research director at ABI Research.
In addition to the Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset, the demonstration also utilized the SDR051 mmWave RF transceiver integrated circuit (IC). The demonstration utilized Keysight Technologies’ new 5G Protocol R&D Toolset and UXM 5G Wireless Test Platform.
Qualcomm Technologies was the first company to announce a 5G modem chipset last year.
Though the first data call using 5G was in a controlled lab test environment, it is one of the first major steps towards the real deployment of 5G networks.
It is early days for 5G in millimeter wave frequencies and many issues need to be resolved before early networks are switched on and compatible devices are in the hands of consumers.
The Qualcomm announcement will likely create a new wave of innovation in the chipset and device ecosystem, which will eventually feed into commercial devices. Qualcomm’s reference design is perhaps a more important announcement in that aspect; using this design, vendors can now create compatible devices and develop products for 5G.
Qualcomm is among the biggest – if not the leading – cellular chipset manufacturer and undoubtedly its patent portfolio is world-class and a significant revenue driver. Its best bet is to accelerate the commercial deployment of 5G, so that it can monetize its patent portfolio and sell more chips.
Today’s news of a 5G NR modem in mmWave comes 3 months before the official 3GPP standard is frozen, however it is possible that Qualcomm’s announcement will skew the market and the standards discussions in its favor. It has the potential to kick start the next round of discussions that will lead to commercial 5G devices.
This is not to say that 5G NR mmWave services are ready to market. There are several challenges to be addressed, including network technologies and deployment topologies, understanding how the communication channel behaves when users are mobile and much more.