Qualcomm leads the race for advanced 5G

The launch of 5G is so recent that it almost seems absurd to talk about 5G Advanced, the next big step in cellular technology, but the global push for cellular innovation led by the international standards organization 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) never stops. Version 17 of the 5G standard was frozen on March 22, 2022, followed by coding protocols in June, and version 18, which marks the beginning of 5G Advanced, will not be frozen until 2024. However, work on features and specifications for Version 18 has been in the works for several years, both by individual companies and collectively as part of the 3GPP standards organization.

Qualcomm has been a leading contributor to cellular standards since 2G, and the company continues to push the boundaries of cellular innovation with each release of 3GPP. Qualcomm is often a generation or two ahead of its competitors in modem technology and this is more evident than ever with the announcement of the new Snapdragon X75 5G modem, which will support Release 17 and be “5G Advanced Ready” for Release 18, according to the company.

Each 3GPP release builds on previous releases with a combination of new and improved technology. Improvements and additions in Release 17 include support for new frequency bands, improved reliability for low latency applications, integrated access and backhaul (IAB), radio access network (RAN) splitting for New Radio (NR), MIMO antenna enhancements for NR, sidelink NR enhancements, power savings enhancements, and support for non-terrestrial networks (NTN), more commonly called satellite communications, for IoT and NR. Version 18 (5G Advanced) will add additional coverage enhancements, network power savings, further MIMO evolution, improved positioning, AI/ML for improved performance, and NTN enhancements.

The new Snapdragon X75 modem is available as a discrete solution that supports a wide range of applications, from smartphones and PCs to vehicles and industrial applications such as robotics. The X75 is really a complete modem and RF subsystem that includes the modem, transceiver and RF front end.

A key improvement for the X75 over the previous X70 modem is a single integrated transceiver for sub-6GHz and 5G mmWave frequencies. According to Qualcomm, the move to an integrated transceiver will simplify the interface and design, resulting in a PCB (printed circuit board) area reduction of up to 25%, a 40% reduction in the cost of the engineering (eBOM). , and a 20% reduction in power consumption, even if the platform is only used for frequencies below 6 GHz.

Another major enhancement is the addition of Tensor Processing Cores for improved AI processing. Qualcomm has for the first time added AI processing to its previous generation Snapdragon X70 modem to increase the performance of the modem subsystem and reduce latency by improving various functions including frequency/link selection and beamforming. According to Qualcomm, adding tensor processing cores boosts AI performance by up to 2.5 times over the X70. AI capabilities also enable enhanced location tracking by combining enhanced sub-6Gz and 5G mmWave beamforming with GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) signals, Wi-Fi signals and information gathered from sensors. All of these features fit into the proposed Version 18 standards.

Most of the Snapdragon X75’s other enhancements are tied to improved connectivity and performance. The X75 will include sub-6GHz carrier aggregation for five separate frequency blocks, FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) uplink carrier aggregation, uplink MIMO antenna support, Qualcomm RF Downlink Boost technology, and switched uplink (the ability to use TDD ( Time Division Duplex) time slots for FDD transmission to achieve higher transmission rates). The X75 also adds ten-frequency block carrier aggregation for 5G mmWave signals, 1024 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) for sub-6GHz frequencies, and 256 QAM for 5G mmWave frequencies. In addition to the hardware enhancements, the Snapdragon X75 is paired with Qualcomm’s Advanced Modem-RF Software Suite, which provides intelligent network selection, advanced interference cancellation, and dual SIM support.

The best way to sum it all up is that Qualcomm is enabling more ways to maximize the efficient use of limited spectrum and achieve Gigabit speeds on both the uplink and downlink with the lowest possible latency and highest reliability.

Finally, the Snapdragon X75 supports both Release 17 and Release 18 specs, which sounds like a repeat of the specs above, but without a frozen spec for Release 18, full Release 18 support seems a bit out of reach at this point. beginning of specification development. . However, Qualcomm is once again a major contributor to the 3GPP specification and is confident that the X75 can support the new and improved technologies, such as AI, included in version 18. In many cases, support for any final changes in the standards may only require software modifications assuming the X75 modem hardware can support the functions.

The Snapdragon X75 will also be a key component in the Qualcomm 3thirdSecond-generation 5G fixed wireless access platform that will also include Wi-Fi 7 support. While the company did not mention when the Snapdragon X75 modem would be integrated into Snapdragon smartphone processors, Tirias Research believes it will be integrated into Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, which is expected to be announced in the fall as a follow-up to the Gen 2. , which has an integrated X70 modem.

With Mobile World Congress in Barcelona just a few weeks away, this is just the first time we are likely to see and hear about new chips and products that support 3GPP Release 17 standards and planned support for Release 18 with 5G Advanced.

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