Qualcomm readies 60GHz goodies for Facebook's Terragraph

Also unveils silicon for 5G NR small cells, because big rigs will drown on traffic any year now

Qualcomm has backed Facebook's plan to take over the mobile network with its Terragraph project: the chip-designer has revealed it's prepping silicon for backhaul systems using today's 802.11ad and 11.ay in the future.

In the backhaul space, Qualcomm has its eye on the 20 to 25 per cent of cellular base stations not served by fibre (that's a US measurement, but all carriers have some proportion of base stations away from a fibre network).

The Qualcomm silicon is designed to work in the Terragraph 60 GHz backhaul spec, using 802.11ad technology first brought into its portfolio with its 2014 Wilocity acquisition.

Product management veep Irvind Ghai told The Register the Qualcomm-based Terragraph backhaul link would use its QCA6438 and QCA6428 chipsets, and would appear in field trials next year.

“What we're looking at is a feature-complete solution towards the tail end of 18, and next year, have field trials with the key large-scale carriers and OEMs”, he said.

Qualcomm plans full-scale production of QCA6438 and QCA6428 chipsets in the second half of 2018.

Pushing 60GHz-based “pre-802.11ay” tech into backhaul links would mean base stations without fibre would still get 10 Gbps link rates, giving them end-user performance to match the rest of the network.

Facebook's enthusiasm for cellular networks, Ghai said, should incentivise OEMs to take part in the hardware ecosystem.

Small cell silicon

Another Qualcomm announcement from this week's London Small Cells World Summit 2018 is a suite of 5G-pitched small cell radio products that will begin arriving in 2019.

The chip designer believes that small cell technology has received relatively scant attention, but that's going to change as 5G networks roll out and traffic overwhelms networks built around macro cells.

The products target 5G NR (New Radio), due for official sign-off next month, which standardises new air interfaces in sub-6GHz and above-6GHz bands and provides new control plane options.

Qualcomm's first entry into the 5G NR space was announced in October 2016, in the form of a Snapdragon variant for user devices.

The FSM100xx series of devices announced today target the radio head-end, and is designed to let OEMs re-use hardware and software designs from pre-5G kit.

A key part of this is a software-defined modem that will make compliance with future 3GPP 5G standard releases a software upgrade, and interfaces split between a central unit and the radio head, so operators can roll out network function virtualization in stages rather than as a big-bang redesign.

The FSM100xx starts sampling early next year. ®

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