Qualcomm smartphone-ready 5G chip to launch in 2019

The first modules designed to allow smartphones to connect to 5G networks have been unveiled by Qualcomm.

The QTM052 antenna modules will be able to access millimetre-wave (mmWave) networks, which will provide the fastest data speeds even in high-density areas, as well as access to sub-6GHz networks.

Under a review of 5G networks released yesterday, the UK government unveiled its rollout plans, which includes the creation of a low-capacity layer providing wide-area 5G coverage using the 700MHz band. 

This will be coupled with a high-capacity network in areas of high demand, such as towns and cities using the 3.4-3.6GHz band, while the densest areas will use mmWave technology.

“Today’s announcement of the first commercial 5G NR mmWave antenna modules and sub-6GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices represents a major milestone for the mobile industry,” said Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon.

“Qualcomm Technologies’ early investment in 5G has allowed us to deliver to the industry a working mobile mmWave solution that was previously thought unattainable, as well as a fully-integrated sub-6GHz RF solution.

“Now, these type of modem-to-antenna solutions, spanning both mmWave and sub-6 spectrum bands, make mobile 5G networks and devices, especially smartphones, ready for large-scale commercialisation.

“With 5G, consumers can expect gigabit-class Internet speeds with unprecedented responsiveness in the palm of their hands, which stand to revolutionise the mobile experience.”

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.

While the mmWave portion of the spectrum offers dramatically faster speeds, it also transmits at a much shorter range and is more easily blocked by objects such as walls and even users’ hands held over their devices.

As such, many in the mobile industry considered mmWave “highly impractical” for mobile devices and networks Qualcomm said.

But the QTM052 has been designed to work in tandem with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon X50 5G modem which can support four of the compact modules simultaneously.

This will allow a smartphone to pick up mmWave signals regardless of how the user holds their phone.

Qualcomm said that it has already sent out samples of the module to customers so hopefully consumers will be seeing the technology in some of next year’s flagship devices.

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