Qualcomm shows progress on 5G mobile broadband

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."

Comments closed
    • End User
    • 2 years ago

    What is the point if data plans suck. When the iPhone was released in Canada there was a deal for 6GB per month. 9 years later I’m still stuck at 6GB and the price of data is going up!

    • strangerguy
    • 2 years ago

    Carriers: “Enjoy our BLAZING FAST 1+ GBps 5G connections!”

    *with our massive single digit GB data caps, further T&Cs and throttling apply*

      • Peter.Parker
      • 2 years ago

      Necessary car analogy:
      Enjoy your new Porsche 911, the fastest car on the planet.

      *when you drive in the city, please keep under 30 mph or lower where necessary, see highway for speed limit indicators.

    • albundy
    • 2 years ago

    what for? LTE’s 20Mbps isnt fast enough? are people running torrents or streaming 4k videos to their tv’s off their phones? how about focusing on the pisspoor battery life that has plagued smartphones since day 1.

      • ChicagoDave
      • 2 years ago

      In five years cell providers could very well have the fastest internet connection available to home users. While right now they’re primarily focused on cell phones, tablets and connected cars, I imagine they’ll start offering broader products when they can realistically offer 1gbit links to dozens or hundreds of customers per tower.

      What’s cheaper, running fiber to every house in a neighborhood, or putting up a 5G antennae? There’s a reason FIOS isn’t being installed anymore, AT&Ts “giga-pop” fiber isn’t going anywhere and even Google is putting their fiber on hold.

      There are several companies planning ot deploy low earth orbit satellite swarms, Google bought Webpass (satellite) and they’re actively developing balloons and to a lesser extent ultra lightweight drones. Incumbent cellular companies have plenty of fiber running to their towers for 5G. Incumbent cable companies are going to DOCSIS 3.1.

      Even right now, the only realistic broadband option for most people is cable because DSL is generally awful. Since running fiber to the home is so expensive, most companies that don’t have coax are going to just run fiber to a tower and use some kind of wireless connection to light up the block. Could be cellular 5G, could be another proprietary wireless system, could be low latency satellite. Whatever it is, it’s a hell of a lot better than the one choice I have now with Comcast.

      • jihadjoe
      • 2 years ago

      The thing with any sort of wireless communication is that the spectrum has to be divided among all users in the area. Higher bandwidth means each user can finish whatever he is downloading, and thus get off the air faster, effectively allowing each cell tower to support more users.

      Even if carriers throttle users to the same speed, a 5G network will support more many users doing 20Mbps than a 4G network will using the same spectrum width.

        • smilingcrow
        • 2 years ago

        “Even if carriers throttle users to the same speed, a 5G network will support more many users doing 20Mbps than a 4G network will using the same spectrum width.”

        Is that like saying that the local tower is like a motorway with more lanes, so even if all the cars whether 4G or 5G are doing the same speed, as there are more lanes from the 5G tower the overall volume of traffic that can pass at the same time is higher?

        If that is the case then how much wider is the 5G road than the 4G?
        Does that depend on the band in use?

          • jihadjoe
          • 2 years ago

          In actual use it’ll be more like timeslicing across multiple users, hence a faster road is effectively a wider road.

          As for how much? 5G is supposedly going to be 10x faster than 4G, but it won’t be until next year that the spec will be finalized.

      • cygnus1
      • 2 years ago

      Think about it this way, faster connections means the radio isn’t active as long to handle today’s bandwidth requirements, so it should use less power to transfer the same number of bits as LTE.

    • shank15217
    • 2 years ago

    Verizon is sceptical of the new 5G standard, says people will abuse the bandwidth, sets data caps to 6GB, proclaims it’s a win for 98.5% of its customers.

    • smilingcrow
    • 2 years ago

    So is there any really useful benefit to this?
    Lower latency may be a benefit but in a significant way?
    I doubt the extra bandwidth is noticeable typically and I wonder if the limiting factor for bandwidth is more due to congestion at the tower or ISP throttling.
    But it’s a big number so all good!

      • JosiahBradley
      • 2 years ago

      Um, yes. More bandwidth to divide out amongst ever growing cities. Ability to stream higher quality videos. (I watch 1440p60 Youtube on my phone when I can). Ability to update OTA’s faster for quicker security patching instead of staggered roll-outs. The list goes on. tech moves forward and this is a good thing.

        • smilingcrow
        • 2 years ago

        The download speed from the tower to the phones surely is completely separate from the bandwidth available to the tower which is linked via cable to the wider internet; if not it will be a very slow tower anyway.

        Higher quality videos!
        Netflix recommend 25Mbs for Ultra HD quality and the actual stream is 15.6Mbs I think.
        So you can do that on 3G easily enough

        Security patches!
        They are too small for it to matter whether it’s over a 100Mb or 1Gb connection.
        4G does 1Gb anyway.

      • DancinJack
      • 2 years ago

      Try and look at it from a bigger picture. It’s not just faster Candy Crush that can be delivered with this stuff, but rather mission critical stuff that would require higher bandwidth. I’m sure there are some applications that can be helped with this stuff.

        • smilingcrow
        • 2 years ago

        That’s more the smaller picture for stuff that is irrelevant to consumers.
        I’m not against 5G but wondering why consumers such as Bradley care about stuff without there being any proof that it makes a difference to their usage patterns.

          • DancinJack
          • 2 years ago

          Well Bradley can have his opinion and use cases. I’m not worried about that. There are SO MANY more use cases than just “how fast can I download this video on my phone?”

            • ChicagoDave
            • 2 years ago

            Yeah, you’d have to be blind to not see the benefits of this. It’s not just downloading apps on your phone, it’s being able to provide Internet access to your whole house. The legacy phone companies aren’t running fiber to homes anymore and DSL is a dead end.

            Cable companies can continue to ride out their coax investment with DOCSIS 3.1. Anyone else either has to lay fiber or deploy wireless tech. Traditional phone companies are going to upgrade their towers to 5G and be able to compete directly with the likes of Comcast, TWC, RCN. 5G can even compete with FIOS and Google Fiber. Satellite providers are in the process of launching new low-latency swarms that will go online in 2018-2019 offering sub 30ms pings and up to gigabit speeds.

            The opposite of progress is death.

            • smilingcrow
            • 2 years ago

            The article doesn’t even mention what the benefits are on paper let alone the real world hence my questions.
            The recently announced Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro have a modem that has a download speed up to 1.2Gbs; possibly one or both of those models.
            So I am curious where the benefits will be with 5g as modem download speed doesn’t appear to be a current bottleneck.
            Seems as if some people are getting excited without even knowing why!

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    Considering the often craptacular level of indoor signal quality that I already experience with smartphones on much longer wavelength bands, I’m not looking forward to experiencing the 28GHz frequency band when I’m not staring directly at a tower.

    Oh yes: [url=http://faculty.poly.edu/~tsr/Publications/ICC_2013_Celinev2.pdf<]Because Science[/url<] too.

      • Grahambo910
      • 2 years ago

      Bah! That paper’s from 2013. Surely the underlying physics of EM wave propagation have changed since then!

      • DancinJack
      • 2 years ago

      I’m pretty certain part of the plan is to place antennae evvvvvverywhere with this stuff. Like in other products too, and not just cell towers.

        • highlandr
        • 2 years ago

        My brother used to work for Sprint, and he said he was in a meeting once where they were talking about putting micro-cells on light poles, with a wifi backhaul to the tower. So yeah, antennae everywhere.

        He told me later “I realized that day that I needed to get out of this business.”

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