What's 5G? Who knows, but Qualcomm's designed a modem for it

Snapdragon X50 will push 5G bps through 800 MHz of mm-wave spectrum

Qualcomm's stuck its flag into the desert island labelled “5G”, hoping to turn it into a lush paradise.

5G today is mostly a feature list awaiting the conclusion of a standards processes in coming years. In the meantime, carriers and vendors want their work to land in the standards – and their patents to generate luscious FRAND royalties before someone else gets their hands on the gold.

One of the early standards on the roadmap is the air interface, known as 5G New Radio (5G NR), which kicked off work this year and is set to freeze in 2018.

Enter Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem, which it wants its OEMs to design into devices for 5G NR field trials.

The Snapdragon X50 includes the modem, millimetre-wave transceivers, and a power management chip.

OEMs will be able to fool around with 28 GHz communications, with 800 MHz channels that support up to 5 Gbps throughput.

There's also MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antenna support with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking.

In MIMO, beams are formed by managing the phase of a signal arriving at antennas, so in some directions signals are augmented, and in other directions they cancel.

The beamforming and tracking capabilities help deal with non-line-of-sight environments, with signals bouncing off walls and other solid objects.

Since the market for 5G devices is going to start small, the X50 also supports 4G multi-mode mobile broadband devices when couple with a Snapdragon processor's integrated LTE modem.

Qualcomm anticipates that OEMs will need to put in a fair bit of work to optimise their designs, so the company will support kit-makers and carriers to conduct lab tests.

There'll be plenty of time to spend on design work: the company says the chip will start sampling in the second half of 2017. Qualcomm's canned blurb is here. ®

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