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MWC: Qualcomm's new 5G modem is the first with built-in AI

At Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm is unveiling a series of connectivity innovations, as well as products and capabilities that are taking Qualcomm technology well beyond the smartphone market.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Qualcomm on Monday unveiled the latest generation of its 5G modem-RF system, the Snapdragon X70 -- the first-ever modem-to-antenna 5G system with an integrated AI processor. With the addition of AI, the modem can help 5G devices offer higher speeds, better coverage and latency, and better power efficiency. 

"I do see AI as an inflection point in terms of what's possible next because this puts you on a new trajectory for better 5G performance and user experience," Nitin Dhiman, Qualcomm's director of 5G product marketing, said to ZDNet. "Similar to what AI has done for cameras, for audio, for sound -- now it will be able to do for 5G as well."

The new AI-powered 5G modem is one of several connectivity announcements Qualcomm is making this week during the Mobile World Congress (MWC). The company also unveiled products and capabilities that are taking Qualcomm technology well beyond the smartphone market. 

Qualcomm has always been a leader in mobile and now has a significant opportunity to grow its business at the connected, intelligent edge, Qualcomm's Global VP of Marketing Mike Roberts told reporters last week. 

"The connected, intelligent edge is going to be an essential part of the growth of the cloud," he said. "In a few short years, we see over 60% of data processing outside of the central cloud. This is going to go right into our core competencies as we extend processing and intelligence to where the data is being generated. It's frankly not feasible to send every byte of data to the cloud. So if you believe in the growth of the cloud, you also believe in the growth opportunity for us here at Qualcomm." 


With the addition of the connected, intelligent edge to the market, as well as the emergence of the metaverse, Qualcomm says that its total addressable market (TAM) will grow from $100 billion to $700 billion over the next 10 years. 

Returning to connectivity, the new Snapdragon X70 features an AI suite designed for AI-powered optimizations for both sub-6 and millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G. The modem offers mmWave standalone support without the need for a sub-6 spectrum. It also offers dual SIM-dual Active (DSDA) support, which means device users can have more than one SIM active in their device for different applications. 

Also: Intel expands AI developer toolkit to bring more intelligence to the edge

The on-chip AI platform will enable new technologies like AI-based smart network detection and selection, AI-based mmWave beam management, AI-based channel state feedback and optimization, and AI-based dynamic antenna tuning. 

Qualcomm expects customers to start sampling the Snapdragon X70 in the second quarter of 2022 and expects 5G devices featuring the modem to launch by the end of this year.

In other connectivity-related news, Qualcomm also unveiled the latest generation of its FastConnect mobile connectivity system for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the new flagship FastConnect 7800 for Wi-Fi 7. 

Qualcomm's FastConnect is already found in more than 500 Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E designs, with more than 200 in the pipeline, spanning mobile compute, XR and other product categories. The new FastConnect 7800 is 60% faster than the previous generation, with 5.8Gbps speeds delivering sustained 50% lower latency and power as much as 50% lower. A key differentiator is its High Band Simultaneous (HBS) Multi-Link technology, which allows for multiple and simultaneous 5GHz and/or 6GHz connections. 

To let users know when they're getting Qualcomm's 5G, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technologies, the company is also introducing Snapdragon Connect -- a badge that signifies when devices feature Qualcomm technologies. The badge will apply to all Snapdragon-powered devices, ranging from phones to XR devices, watches and even automobiles. 

Moving beyond smartphones, Qualcomm announced Monday that it's powering the first Arm-based Lenovo ThinkPad. The ThinkPad X13s features the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 compute platform that Qualcomm announced last year.

Qualcomm is updating its Digital Chassis in the automotive market -- a set of cloud-connected platforms for telematics, connectivity, digital cockpit, driver assistance, and autonomy. Among other upgrades, the Digital Chassis will now offer connectivity as-a-service. The feature will support out-of-the-box connectivity, integrated analytics, and a cloud and device developer environment. 

In the industrial space, Qualcomm announced it's working with Gridspertise, a subsidiary of Enel Group, to transform power grids digitally. Gridspertise recently launched the QEd –Quantum Edge device for digital substations, which uses Qualcomm's Technologies' IoT solutions.

Qualcomm also announced steps it's taking to advance 5G fixed wireless as an alternative broadband solution to DSL, cable and fiber. It's introducing the 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) platform with next-generation features like support for standalone 5G mmWave and the Qualcomm 5G RF Sensing Suite.

Qualcomm also announced the work it's doing with Mavenir and building an expanded portfolio of Open RAN solutions. New Mavenir products, powered by Qualcomm 5G RAN platforms, will be designed to simplify network deployments and accelerate the global adoption of cloud-based, Open RAN mobile networks.

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