Today Qualcomm announced a new all-band, all-region 5G modem. Along with that announcement the company also unveiled its latest antenna module, the QTM525. This is a mmWave antenna module, and one of the critical components needed to assist 5G deployment at the device level.
As mmWave is expected to play a significant, though not sole, role in 5G connections, in many ways this can be best understood as the company’s 5G antenna module. Technically, this is a second-generation product as the company already announced its first mmWave antenna module, the QTM052, back in July 2018.
Qualcomm states the QTM525 supports 26 GHz, 28 GHz, and 39 GHz bands and one of the most noteworthy improvements of the QTM525 over the QTM052 is the size with the latest antenna module now better suited to slimmer devices. Qualcomm states the new design can accommodate smartphone "designs sleeker than 8 millimeters thick."
Along with the various other technologies already available to Qualcomm, this now forms part of the company's 5G RF Front-End (RFFE) solution going forward, and when further coupled with the new Snapdragon X55 modem, the company argues this is the “world’s most advanced commercial 5G modem and platform.”
This robust modem-to-antenna solution not only accounts for all bands and all regions, but also all generational networks thanks to the backwards support down to 2G. Therefore although this is being pushed to market as a 5G solution, Qualcomm has been quick to point out it's more of a multi-mode product that can satisfy device-makers and consumers at any "G" network level.
One of the additional components essential to the improvements of the RFFE is the new Qualcomm QET6100. The company’s - and according to Qualcomm "the world’s" -- first 5G envelope tracking solution.
Envelope tracking in itself is not new as it has been used for some time in the smartphone world and at the RFFE level as a means to reduce the strain put on devices when sending out a signal to networks. It’s essentially a power amplifier and the reduction in strain leads to other benefits, such as lowering power consumption. In consumer smartphone talk, it helps to extend battery life.
It is these very aspects that Qualcomm now expects the QET6100 to help with when it comes to 5G smartphones and devices in general by helping to boost the signal without the need for more power or placing greater strain on 5G devices.
For example, Qualcomm is claiming double the power efficiency which in addition to extending battery life, will also assist with faster speeds overall. At the network level, the QET6100 can help to improve indoor coverage.
Speaking of the coverage, this end-to-end solution also draws on the Qualcomm QAT3555. This is the company’s new 5G NR Adaptive Antenna Tuning solution and is another aspect that's now expected to help with improved indoor coverage, as well as battery life and also assisting with more consistent and faster download speeds.
As this is a complete RFFE solution, Qualcomm argues the additional benefit on offer is the time to market expected for devices. OEMs will be able to draw on this solution without having to work on compatibility as much as they might have to if opting for separate components. Therefore, OEMs opting to go all-in with Qualcomm's RFFE solution can take advantage of an accelerated device launch which in turn helps to get 5G devices in the hands of consumers more quickly.
Qualcomm has confirmed all of the components within this new 5G RFFE system will be sampled out to interested OEMS in the first half of this year with the expectation devices utilizing this modem-to-antenna system will begin to arrive in the second half of 2019.