Qualcomm made three announcements about connectivity products today at its 2016 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong. The first announcement, aimed at easing the transition between the 4G LTE networks we have today and the 5G networks of the future, is a partnership with Netgear, Telstra, and Ericsson to deliver the first commercial gigabit class LTE device and network. Qualcomm sees gigabit LTE as a necessary building block and foundation for 5G, providing more bandwidth over a wider area until even higher bandwidth, shorter range 5G networks come online. Telstra, an Australian telecommunications provider, is currently building and testing the first gigabit LTE network, with equipment and software from Ericsson, in a bid to bring higher bandwidth internet access to the home without the expense of laying fiber cables.

Telstra is pushing for a commercial launch in the next few months and will be providing its customers with the new Netgear Mobile Router MR1100—a gigabit LTE endpoint and Wi-Fi router that delivers up to 1Gbps download speeds through a combination of 3x carrier aggregation, MIMO technology (4x4 MIMO on two aggregated carriers plus 2x2 MIMO on the third carrier), and 256-QAM modulation. Inside is a Qualcomm Wi-Fi solution and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X16 LTE modem paired with Qualcomm’s WTR5975 RF transceiver.

This is the Snapdragon X16’s first appearance after it was unveiled back in February of this year at Qualcomm’s annual Analyst Day. The X16 is a sixth-generation discrete LTE modem manufactured on a 14nm FinFET process that’s capable of 1Gbps (Category 16) on the downlink and 150Mbps (Category 13) on the uplink. According to Qualcomm:

The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem is designed to reach Gigabit Class LTE speeds using the same amount of spectrum as Category 9 LTE devices. By using carrier aggregation and 4x4 MIMO, the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem can receive 10 unique streams of data using only three 20 MHz carriers. Its support for 256-QAM boosts the peak throughput of each stream from ~75 Mbps to ~100 Mbps, with additional gains possible with modem data compression. Additionally, with support for Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) as well as LTE-U, this combination reduces the amount of licensed spectrum required—to 40 MHz or less—to vastly expand the number of operators that can deploy Gigabit Class LTE speeds around the globe.

The X16 LTE modem will find a home integrated inside the next, currently unnamed, Snapdragon SoC, which is the second big announcement today. This next generation SoC will be powering flagship phones in 2017, enabling faster download speeds as carriers begin rolling out gigabit capable networks over the next 12 months, according to Qualcomm.

The final big announcement is Qualcomm’s first 5G modem, the Snapdragon X50. Designed to work only in the 28GHz millimeter-wave spectrum initially (supporting the Verizon 5GTF and KT 5G-SIG specifications), it’s capable of 8x100MHz carrier aggregation, giving it access to 800MHz of spectrum versus 80MHz (4x20MHz) for Qualcomm’s X16 LTE modem. All of this extra bandwidth enables up to 5Gbps on the downlink.

The downside to using higher frequencies, however, is their limited penetration and range. Qualcomm looks to mitigate these issues by using an array of many small antennas and employing adaptive beamforming and beam tracking to enable non-line-of-sight operation, essentially using surface reflections to see around corners and objects.

The Snapdragon X50 5G modem will be paired with two of the new SDR051 millimeter-wave transceivers and the PMX50 power management IC to support fixed wireless applications or future mobile devices. Because it only supports millimeter-wave frequencies, it needs to be paired with an additional 4G LTE modem to provide data uplink and voice capabilities and to allow seamless handoff between 4G and 5G networks depending on availability.

Qualcomm expects the Snapdragon X50 to begin sampling in the second half of 2017, with the first commercial products incorporating the new components showing up in the first half of 2018.

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  • iwod - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    X50, Any power usage figures? Just wondering how far are we from putting it inside a phone.
    How is mmWave suppose to work in 4G/5G era? Are we going to have mmWave in Small Cell so direct line of sight is possible? Or is mmWave a niche for filling rual area broadband only. How much total capacity is it per call? at 5Gbps, this could go up to 20Gbps/40Gbps or even higher in total. Doesn't that still require Fibre to be laid out.
    Also wondering if mmWave are using the same air interface E-UTRA.

    I keep wondering the amount of Wireless Tech inside a Smartphone keeps increasing, WiFi 802.11a-ac, Bluetooth, 2G/3G/4G/and later 5G. It surely comes in at a cost, when will it makes sense for a Smartphone to drop, say like 2G/3G, when LTE is much better. And save on complexity and transistor.
  • Wardrop - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    I'll just reset your monthly download quota now... and it's gone!
  • ajp_anton - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    I don't think this is meant for developing countries.
  • zodiacfml - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    Both, those without fiber yet and low population density areas.
    The question now though if that market requires faster than 4G speeds. Maybe, in a few years.
  • ajp_anton - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    It was more a snide on some countries insisting on limiting mobile internet usage. But 5G will have lower range than previous techs, so I still don't think it's for developing (or low population) countries.
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    Don't be too sure. Different countries are remarkable in trying to get some value out of tech that doesn't make sense in other countries.

    In Myanmar, for example, a very common delivery mechanism for home or small office internet is WiMax, with a reasonably heavy duty antenna (size of a small TV antenna or so) mounted outside the building, feeding the analog signal to a router/wifi box inside the building.
    I assume South Korea had a bunch of excess WiMax equipment they wanted to get rid of once LTE became mainstream, and someone in Yangon had a bright idea as to how they could get some real value out it.

    You can sneer at all this --- the connection is 500kbps when you're lucky, and it goes to hell when it rains --- but the alternative is not fiber, it is nothing. And with serious infrastructure problems in more basic items like sewers and pavements, you're going to be waiting a long time for some sort of wired system to serve most areas.

    Obviously that is old tech, while mmWave is new tech; my point is just that the tradeoffs and infrastructure exploitation that's possible are very different in different places.
  • sherifhanna - Monday, October 17, 2016 - link

    Hi, this is Sherif from Qualcomm. Great questions about mmWave. Here's a quick one-pager on how mmWave will work in X50 to support mobile scenarios, including indoor non-line-of-sight: https://www.qualcomm.com/documents/qualcomm-snapdr...
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    Amazing techology - you even defy basic physical principles like the reflection law for EM-radiation!
    (in the document beams hit an apparently flat wall at 90° and are reflected in a specific angle)
  • name99 - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    Do normal walls (which look like they have roughness of order a mm or so) act as specular reflectors to this radiation?
    (But yeah, I agree that the diagrams in the PDF are kinda dumb, and look like they COULD be redrawn with equal incident and reflected angles, just reflecting at a different point, to still make the journey as desired.)
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - link

    Good question. There's definitely some directionality, otherwise they wouldn't be talking about "using relfections".

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