Qualcomm demonstrated progress on its 5G mobile broadband efforts at its San Diego laboratory yesterday. The company showed off two forms of next-gen mobile broadband connectivity using its Snapdragon X50 5G modem. The company also previewed its first smartphone reference design for testing and implementing 5G technology within the size and power envelopes of a handset. In a separate event in Hong Kong last week, Qualcomm and Microsoft also talked about progress in building always-connected Windows devices with Qualcomm's ARM chips.
Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 modem chip (left) and 28 GHz mmWave antenna (right)
Qualcomm says that as part of the 5G "New Radio," or 5G NR standard, mmWave will be essential to the next generation in mobile broadband. The company's 5G demo is notable not only because it showed functional hardware, but also because the company seems to have miniaturized the complex antenna necessary to maintain mobile broadband connections using frequencies higher than 26 GHz for mmWave use. The gigabit connection used "several" 100 MHz 5G carriers to achieve its swift download speeds, and the setup also achieved a data connection in the 28 GHz band for the first time. The company's demonstration used Keysight Technologies' 5G Protocol R&D chipset and UXM's 5G Wireless Test Platform in addition to Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 modem.
Qualcomm's reference 5G handset design
The company announced the Snapdragon X50 5G modem back in October of last year. At the time, Qualcomm expected to sample chips to OEMs in the second half of this year, and it projected that 5G handsets would be available to consumers in the first half of 2018. The company said in yesterday's announcement that commercial launches of 5G phones and networks would occur in the first half of 2019. We aren't sure if this means that manufacturing of modems is behind schedule or if the networks simply won't be ready before the end of 2018, but it is a setback from prior projections.
Qualcomm says it is also still hard at work helping prepare for the launch of Windows laptops powered by the same Snapdragon 835 found in seemingly every current high-end Android phone before the end of December. According to Trusted Reviews, Qualcomm VP of Global Product Marketing said that devices were still on track for a December launch. Pete Bernard from Microsoft's Connectivity Partners Group says that the company has "hundreds" of Qualcomm-powered laptops in testing at its headquarters. Future Windows laptops with Qualcomm chips were announced back in December of last year, but little word of the new class of the machines has come since the initial announcement. The companies both hinted that less expensive machines with lower-end Qualcomm chips could come in the future. The boldest claims about these new machines involve battery life, which is said to be "multiple days."