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Qualcomm Details Snapdragon 820’s X12 LTE Modem

September 15, 2015 - Written By Kishalaya Kundu

After the disaster that was the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm knows all too well that it needs to up its game with the Snapdragon 820, if it wants to stay relevant in an era when rival chipmakers like MediaTek are almost snapping at their heels with its Helio X20 SoC. While not all the relevant specifications regarding the Snapdragon 820 were in public domain before Monday, it was pretty clear that Qualcomm has thrown everything bar the proverbial kitchen sink at its next generation flagship chip in order for them to remain competitive in a market where every other large smartphone maker like Samsung, Huawei, Apple and now even Xiaomi seem to be making their own chipsets rather than sourcing third party silicon. As for the upcoming premium chipset from the company, While Qualcomm had already detailed the upcoming chip’s custom Kryo cores, Hexagon 680 image processor and Adreno 530 GPU, details about the integrated X12 LTE modem were mostly sketchy.

On Monday, Qualcomm announced the detailed specifications of its X12 LTE modem, which will come integrated with its Snapdragon 820 chip. According to the announcement by Qualcomm, the X12 LTE modem will support Cat.12 LTE standard of theoretical burst download speeds of up to 600 Mbps, which is 33 percent faster than the previous generation X10 LTE modem in the Snapdragon 810, which supported the Cat.9 standard of up to 450 Mbps. The X12 LTE modem will also support Cat.13 standard of up to 150 Mbps uplink speeds, along with LTE-U (LTE in unlicensed spectrum). Although Gigabit internet via FTTH connections is old story (some ISPs are even offering as much as 10 Gbps internet commercially), such astronomical speeds via wireless connections are still in the realms of fantasy for the most part. According to the San Diego, California-based chipmaker however, achieving such high speeds will be possible because of LTE-A carrier aggregation and ‘higher order modulation’.

The chip will also reportedly support Tri-Band Wi-Fi, which includes the 60 GHz band alongside the more common 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Wi-Fi on the new modem also promises to be significantly faster than any embedded modem has ever been, with support for 802.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO, which will mean two to three times faster Wi-Fi at home and at work. The X12 LTE modem will also have built-in support the Wi-Fi 820.11ad standard, allowing multi-Gigabit speeds in theory, which will make for buffering-free 4K video streaming. The company also made it a point to mention that the chipset will support Quick Charge 3.0, which will allow for faster and more efficient charging of supported devices.

While Qualcomm does make it clear that real world scenarios may not necessarily come without its own kinks and issues in implementing such lofty standards, the upcoming chipset does seem like a significant step forward overall as compared to anything available on the market right now – at least on paper. The chipmaker will be hoping the Snapdragon 820 will be instrumental in burying the ghosts of chipsets past (read Snapdragon 810), and take it back to its rightful place at the top of the mobile semiconductor chipset heap.