New chip launched to power 5G smart phones

You may want to hold off buying a 5G phone until 2020

The Snapdragon X50 relies on a second Snapdragon X24 modem for LTE connectivity (kind of like the first LTE phones).

Qualcomm's first 5G-capable modem, the Snapdragon X50, is capable of 5 Gbps peak download speeds, but it has limited 5G network support and needs to be paired with a Snapdragon processor that has built-in Gigabit LTE capabilities.

Understandably, you're probably wondering "why have the X50 at all if the X55 does all this stuff better without needing two separate modems?" When one looks at the spec, this chip was tailored for Apple and others of course, but now with all the legal drama, Apple will have to settle with second best, Intel and its modem solution. Non-Standalone (NSA) will use 5G to transfer data while it will still use 4G for non-data duties such as talking to cell towers and servers. But looking towards the future, it supports Stand Alone mode for a time when only 5G networks are available (the X50 only supports Non-Stand Alone mode). China Mobile wants to start with 5G Stand Alone, which sounds like an expensive move that will enable many advantages of the 5G. The Snapdragon X50 was built on a 10nm manufacturing process, but the X55 is being upgraded to a 7nm process.

The Snapdragon X55 is a 7-nanometer single-chip 5G modem that integrates all the technology from 2G to 5G, said Ignacio Contreras, director of 5G marketing with Qualcomm, on a conference call with media. This will allow network providers to accelerate 5G roll-out using their existing 4G spectrum holdings to deliver both 4G & 5G services dynamically.

The Snapdragon X55 isn't all about 5G connectivity, as it also comes with improvements in 4G and even 3G connectivity. or 4G LTE, the X55 will support Category 22 LTE that can reach download speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps.

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Perhaps the biggest point of all is that the X55 also supports the 5G Standalone (SA) specification. Now, beams can be focused both horizontal and vertically, with the promise of significant gains in spectral efficiency and network capacity as a result. Beamforming is one of the key techniques in 5G and very high speeds and efficient mmWaves are possible thanks to beamforming. Snapdragon X55 is created to accelerate global 5G rollout and bring 5G to a broad range of device categories and applications beyond smartphones, including hotspots, Wi-Fi routers, Always Connected PCs*, laptops, tablets, XR devices and connected cars.Combined with Qualcomm RF Front End solutions, the Snapdragon X55 is created to support high-power fixed wireless access (FWA) services and equipment. Some elements of 5G phones, such as the design of antennas and chips for handling analog radio waves, are more complicated than previous generations of phones.

For its part, while Qualcomm may be powering the first deployment of 5G this year, the reality is that it'll be another twelve months or thereabouts before it gets anywhere close to mainstream. Establishing dominance in this emerging mobile ecosystem will pay off when 5G phones are actually good.

The Snapdragon X55 isn't expected to appear in devices until late 2019.

Qualcomm made the announcements ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the industry's annual showcase for wireless technology.

"Qualcomm Technologies is spearheading the first wave of 5G launches with our first generation 5G mobile platform. We expect our 5G platform to accelerate 5G commercial momentum and power virtually all 5G launches in 2019 while significantly expanding the global 5G rollout footprint", said Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm Incorporated.

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