Qualcomm today unveiled fully-integrated 5G NR millimeter wave (mmWave) and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices.
The Qualcomm QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the Qualcomm QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family pair with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem to deliver modem-to-antenna capabilities across several spectrum bands, in a very compact footprint that is suited for integration in mobile devices.
To date, mmWave signals have not been used for mobile wireless communications due to the many technical and design challenges they pose, which impact nearly every aspect of device engineering, including materials, form-factor, industrial design, thermals, and regulatory requirements for radiated power. As such, many in the mobile industry considered mmWave highly impractical for mobile devices and networks, and thus unlikely to materialize.
The QTM052 mmWave antenna modules work in tandem with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, to help overcome the challenges associated with mmWave. They support beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking technologies, improving the range and reliability of mmWave signals. They feature an integrated 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end components and phased antenna array. They support up to 800 MHz of bandwidth in the 26.5-29.5 GHz (n257), as well as the entire 27.5-28.35 GHz (n261) and 37-40 GHz (n260) mmWave bands. Most importantly, the QTM052 modules integrate all these capabilities in a very compact footprint, such that up to four of them can be integrated in a smartphone. This allows OEMs to continue evolving the industrial design of their mobile devices, offering attractive form factors combined with the benefits of high speeds from mmWave 5G NR, and making such devices available for launch as early as the first half of 2019.
While mmWave is best suited for providing 5G coverage in dense urban areas and crowded indoor environments, broad 5G NR coverage will be achieved in sub-6 GHz spectrum bands. As such, the QPM56xx RF module family (including the QPM5650, QPM5651, QDM5650, and QDM5652) is designed to allow smartphones based on the Snapdragon X50 5G modem to support 5G NR in sub-6 GHz RF bands. The QPM5650 and QPM5651 feature integrated 5G NR PA/LNA/Switch and filtering subsystem. The QDM5650 and QDM5652 feature integrated 5G NR LNA/switch and filtering subsystem for diversity and MIMO support. All four modules offer integrated SRS switching required for optimum massive MIMO applications and support for 3.3-4.2 GHz (n77), 3.3-3.8 GHz (n78) and 4.4-5.0 GHz (n79) sub-6 bands.
Both the QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family are now sampling.
Qualcomm expects some handsets will use LTE and mmwave 5G, others will use LTE and sub-6 5G and some will implement all three.
In the U.S., AT&T and Verizon are expected initially to focus on mmwave 5G, turning on services before the end of the year. T-Mobile is starting 5G services soon on its 600 MHz bands, and Sprint is expected to start sub-6 operation early next year.
European carriers are expected to focus on sub-6 bands first with services starting early next year. Millimeter weave and sub-6 bands are expected to coexist in much of Asia including Korea and Japan. Overall, a proliferation of 5G bands will be used around the world, expanding the already diverse set used with LTE.
Early last-mile and bridge products linking 5G to Wi-Fi and USB will emerge later this year. Handsets are expected to follow before June.
The need for a broad portfolio of highly integrated RF and antenna components will challenge Qualcomm's rivals including Intel and Skyworks.
Separately, Qualcomm compiled data from third-party tests of LTE handset throughput showing its LTE modems significantly outperformed those of its closest rival, Intel.