Qualcomm says it's going to pump out the 5G chipsets

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Sep 9, 2019

  • The success of 5G will depend in large part on the range and quality of smartphone chipsets
  • If, as the mood music suggests, 5G is going to ripple through the market at a faster rate than previous ‘G’s, then design, capabilities and speed to market for SoC offerings are going to be critical
  • Qualcomm claims it’s new ‘systems approach’ will be a huge assist

It must be four or five months since we were counting in the finishers in the Race to 5G. So right about now, in the run-up to the holiday/gift season, minds are naturally turning to smartphones. We have the networks (sort of), let’s have some devices to connect to them, goes the cry.

Well there are devices out there but they are terribly pricey, a situation - to be fair - expected to obtain at the outset of any new ‘G’. As a result leading edge 5G handsets are all currently priced well above $1000 dollars, but the good news is that when the time is right, new smartphone offerings at mid- and even low-end price points should be hitting the market. Much will depend on the pricing policies of the 5G System on a Chip (SoC) vendors, most particularly on Qualcomm, which says it will be stepping up to the plate to offer the world'€™s first commercial chipset solutions that combine modem, RF transceiver and RF Front-end. It’s calling the new solutions ‘Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF Systems’ to mark its switch to what if also calls its new 'system-level' approach. 

It claims that 5G is poised to execute not only the fastest mobile technology transition ever, but also an engineering feat with a record number of OEMs offering devices at launch - virtually all of them, it claims, using Qualcomm Technologies'€™ 5G solutions.


"Years ago, we recognized that enabling 5G requires an evolved design strategy, and that a component-focused approach is no longer sufficient to achieve the device or network performance that users and operators expect," said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager, 4G/5G, at Qualcomm Technologies. "€œWe adopted a systems paradigm and invested early-on in developing the mobile industry's first comprehensive solution spanning from modem to RF front-end to antenna, a holistic systems approach that allows for unique techniques and optimizations to drive high 5G performance and power-efficiency while maintaining ease of design for our customers."

The Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System is the flagship, featuring the world'€™s most advanced commercial 5G modem, RF transceiver, RF front-end, millimeter wave (mmWave) antenna modules and software framework for advanced power-saving and performance-enhancing 5G technologies, claims Qualcomm. 

Assembling all the pieces

Qualcomm claims having all the key pieces of the system in-house allows it to co-design hardware and software across all sub-components of the system and use the modem’s intelligence to innovate advanced technologies and optimization techniques. 

The Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System is currently shipping to OEM customers and it is scheduled to be in commercial devices including 5G smartphones, laptops, customer-premise equipment for fixed wireless access, mobile hotspots, routers and automotive products, beginning in late 2019.

Qualcomm has also released the results of some of its consumer research -  something which might offer clues to where it may be headed in support of its OEM customers. Its  2019 State of Play report surveys 6,000 smartphone users in the U.S., UK, China,  Japan, India, and Germany. 

The company is getting very excited about audio and says the survey results highlight the fact that ‘great’ sound quality is important to consumers. A concern it says it’s already meeting with technologies, such as its ptX audio and active noise cancellation. 

Qualcomm claims the results point to the fact that consumers now want to do more than just listen to music. They also want to integrate new features like voice assistance, cellular, and low-latency audio streaming, while at the same time extend  battery life and improve sound quality. And the research also throws out that they are willing to pay for it and are expecting to enjoy smarter and “more immersive listening experiences” as a result

In fact sound is the biggest concern for 65 per cent of consumers across all the relevant technologies - smart speakers, headphones, sound bars etc.  And closely allied is better battery life for wireless devices which reflects, says Qualcomm, a shift in preference towards wirelessness and listening on the move.

  • More than 30% of those surveyed say they use their wireless audio devices while gaming.

  • 52% said they would prefer to receive Bluetooth wireless headphones bundled with their next phone.

  •  63% of users care about Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) as a feature.

  • 67% of soundbar shoppers said the ability to stream audio smoothly to other audio devices without any lags (low latency) is important.

  • 53% of consumers rated Voice User Interface as a feature of interest for wireless headphones.

  • 73% of users expect their portable/wireless speaker to be able to play music at a very loud volume without distortion or loss of quality.

For more information and to download the full report visit the State of Play webpage.

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