What’s next in 5G for Qualcomm? mmWave boosts, 5G factories, MIMO networks, and more

Qualcomm has revealed a host of new 5G technologies as well as the vendors adopting its chips for 5G-enabled smartphones.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Qualcomm has announced a range of new 5G and Wi-Fi 6 R&D projects as vendors begin to launch devices supporting next-generation wireless technologies and the focus can now shift from consumer products to enterprise applications. 

At Qualcomm's "What's Next in 5G" media event on Tuesday, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf and President Cristiano Amon discussed the strides the company is making in the space, including use cases for 5G. 

See also: Qualcomm launches Snapdragon integrated 5G modem, RF antenna system, in devices early 2021

The first area the chipmaker focused on was making sure 5G in mobile devices met consumer expectations of improved speed and reliability, a necessary step as Qualcomm chips are being used by smartphone and tablet vendors -- and, naturally, you need to keep your OEMs happy. 

Vendors including ASUS, Black Shark, Fujitsu, iQOO, Lenovo, Nubia, OPPO, realme, Redmi, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE have signed up to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G chipset in devices hitting the shelves over 2020.

In total, over 70 designs have either been announced or in development based on the 5G chipset. Upcoming devices include the Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra; Sharp AQUOS R5G; Black Shark 3; Xiaomi Mi 10, and ZTE Axon 10s Pro will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 5G.

Now the chipset stage has been wrapped up and approved by OEMs, Qualcomm is focusing on 3GPP Release 16, 17, and beyond to bring 5G connectivity to other uses cases, including smart factories, IoT, and automotive technologies. 

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The US chip giant's research focus has been separated into the following areas: 

  • Advanced 5G Massive MIMO OTA test network: An end-to-end 3.5GHz system designed to improve the network capacity and facilitate wide-area, low-latency services.
  • 5G wide-area technology: Demo models are being designed to test new 5G systems, including full-duplex MIMOs and new IoT data management architectures.
  • Real-world outdoor mmWave OTA network tests: A 28GHz end-end demonstration of mmWave mobility uses under real-life mobility scenarios.
  • 5G mobile mmWave: New models designed for network simplification and to enhance device efficiency, upcoming in Release 16+.
  • 5G smart factories: Qualcomm is currently developing an industrial 5G test network for the purposes of industrial automation, time-sensitive networking (TSN) and enhanced ultra-reliable low latency communication (eURLLC).
  • Indoor 5G network positioning: R&D is taking place in sub-meter 3D positioning for industrial IoT applications, including asset tracking and vehicle control.
  • 5G NR Cellular-to-Everything (C-V2X): 3GPP Release 16 will bolster C-V2X capabilities -- based on 5G NR -- such as improving reaction time across "challenging" radio environments. 

Qualcomm has also demonstrated its Wi-Fi 6E technologies, made possible with 6GHz spectrum. Wi-Fi 6E, currently undergoing regulatory approval, has been shown to offer transfer speeds up to 30% faster than current Wi-Fi bandwidth. 

The company says its FastConnect 6800 subsystem, found in the Snapdragon 865 Mobile platform, will be able to deliver Wi-Fi speeds of close to 1.8 Gbps. 

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Rahul Patel, senior vice president of connectivity and networking at Qualcomm said once 6GHz spectrum is allocated, "Wi-Fi 6E is primed to solve for modern connectivity challenges and create new opportunities for the next generation of devices and experiences."

Also of note is the backing of mobile operator networks that will facilitate the upcoming Always on, Always Connected 5G PCs, due to be launched this year. The Snapdragon-powered PCs will be supported by operators including Verizon, Sprint, EE, Telefonica, China Mobile, and Telstra. Subscriber plans are expected to roll out throughout 2020. 

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