Qualcomm has announced plans to bring 5G to its budget Snapdragon 4-series mobile SoCs. The chip giant will unveil the first 5G-capable Snapdragon 4-series chipset in early 2021. This will bring the next-gen networking standard to the cheapest range of smartphones yet, pretty much making 5G mainstream.
5G services are currently available on more than 80 commercial networks across 35 countries around the world. Qualcomm says its new budget chipset will be "truly global," enabling 5G access to more than 3.5 billion smartphone users globally.
Details are still sparse, so it's unclear what modem the new chipset will use or whether the modem will come integrated into the chipset or not. However, the chipsets are unlikely to offer support for mmWave 5G. They'll probably only work with sub-6GHz 5G.
Reports say only about 30 percent of currently available 5G devices support mmWave 5G networks. Most of the wireless carriers around the world are also deploying their 5G networks on low-band or mid-band spectrum because of poor coverage of the high-frequency mmWave spectrum. Qualcomm recently announced that it extended its 5G mmWave range to over 2 miles.
The company expects devices based on the 5G-enabled Snapdragon 4-series chipsets to arrive in the first quarter of 2021. Motorola, Oppo, and Xiaomi will likely be among the first smartphone makers to use the chipset.
"Today, it is exciting to see Qualcomm Technologies expand 5G to the Snapdragon 4-series, accelerating 5G global commercialization. Xiaomi will become one of the world’s first OEMs to introduce a 5G smartphone powered by the Snapdragon 4-series 5G mobile platform," said Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi.
"We’re excited to continue our collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies in 2021, working on a unified mission of offering 5G for everyone," Motorola president Sergio Buniac added.
Qualcomm brings 5G to Snapdragon 4-series
Qualcomm has been gradually expanding its 5G portfolio since last year. Starting with the flagship Snapdragon 8-series, the company has extended 5G support to cheaper solutions in its Snapdragon 7-series and 6-series as well.
Smartphones that use the flagship Snapdragon 8-series chipsets typically cost upwards of $700. On the other hand, Snapdragon 7-series chips bring the cost of 5G phones down to around $500. The company's current most affordable 5G chipset, the Snapdragon 690, is yet to appear in devices.
It is said to power the Samsung Galaxy A42 5G, which will reportedly retail for 369 euros (around $435). More affordable Snapdragon 690-powered phones are likely to cost lesser than $400. But with the arrival of 5G-capable Snapdragon 4-series chipsets next year, 5G phones may be available at under $200 as well.
This would give 5G networks a much broader audience. Qualcomm predicts that the 5G smartphone shipment volume will surpass 1 billion by 2023.