Qualcomm Announces X55 Modem for Better 5G Phones, but Not Until 2020

You may want to hold off buying a 5G phone until 2020

You may want to hold off buying a 5G phone until 2020

Two months ago, Qualcomm held the Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii. It's easy to forget that the X50 modem has had quite of a long time to market, as we had first reported on the chipset way back in October 2016.

That said, it's unlikely we'll see any major device releases with integrated X55 support until 2020.

Ahead of Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm is announcing the Snapdragon X55 5G modem, its second-generation 5G modem for mobile devices. Joining the X55 modem is the new QTM525 mmWave antenna module, succeeding last year's QTM052. Qualcomm aims to speed up adoption of 5G by also selling those technologies to phone makers.

In lieu, Qualcomm believes that its new software tweaks will enable the modem to deliver superior power efficiency over previous generations.

That leads to freaky arrangements like Motorola's 5G Moto Mod having its own Snapdragon 855 onboard to go with the X50, completely separate from the Moto Z3's own Snapdragon 835. Whenever a piece of silicon is shrunken, it uses up less power, which translates to longer battery life.

You have to remember, Verizon and AT&T are engaged in a massive and extremely expensive race to deploy 5G mmWave, and the first carrier with a viable 5G phone in 2019 gets all the 5G bragging rights.

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For 5G, Qualcomm has had to make sure it can deal with significantly more antennas, however. "And we are going with a far more complex technology with regards to Sub-6 spectrum and mmWave and more interworking with 4G in many cases". The QTM525 is slimmer than existing antennas, which should allow for 5G phones as thin as 8mm. Thanks to to-scale pictures next to a penny, we know the older QTM052 module was about 5mm tall.

The X55 will appear in phones in the second half of this year, Qualcomm said. As a result, devices powered by Snapdragon X55 will offer extensive flexibility to operators for utilizing their spectrum assets to help bring the best connected experiences to consumers. But the second-generation Snapdragon X55 that Qualcomm announced today is a big step up. Smaller transistors should mean less usage, less heat, and-if the design was the same-a smaller die size. It's to be noted that the X55 also now supports spectrum sharing, meaning 5G and 4G can co-exist on the same frequencies.

The Snapdragon X55 isn't all about 5G connectivity, as it also comes with improvements in 4G and even 3G connectivity. or 4G LTE, the X55 will support Category 22 LTE that can reach download speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps. SA ditches the use of LTE networks for backend communication, transitioning over entirely to 5G.

The success of 5G won't rely on its implementation in ACPCs; it's a natural evolution of mobile internet, and there's a whole smartphone market that will assure its saturation over the next several years. This new 5G to 2G multimode 7nm modem can support up to 7 Gbps download speeds and 3 Gbps upload speeds over 5G. The X55 can only do 6Gbps over mmWave, with an extra 1Gbps coming from sub-6Ghz LTE.

It's unclear how this 4G/5G modem will be used in a device. The latest iteration of the chip meant to ensure antenna performance regardless of how you're holding your phone, in this case it promises better indoor coverage, faster and more consistent data speeds, and longer battery life overall. What we would really like to see is an SoC with 5G on board, the same way LTE-only phones have single-chip modems+SoC combos today.

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