Qualcomm claims the word’s first fully integrated 5G NR (New Radio) millimeter wave (mmWave) and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices. The Qualcomm QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family pair with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem to deliver modem-to-antenna capabilities across several spectrum bands, in a very compact footprint that is suited for integration in mobile devices.
mmWave crucial for fast 5G
It is very important to underline how hard is it to do millimeter waves as you need these frequencies to get to really interesting speeds. Qualcomm already demonstrated that 4.51 Gbps is possible with the help of 28 GHz mm waves, but of course many were sceptical about the limitations of these high frequencies in the phone form factor. It is one thing to get the speed in the lab and second is to recreate this in urban environment.
What is a mmWave?
This is the term that has been around for a while and it seems appropriate to adequately address the meaning of the mmWave term. This is a wireless signal that operates at frequencies of 24Ghz and higher. The higher the frequency, the higher the potential speed of the signal. If you compare mmWave 24GHz plus speeds (28GHz is one commonly used for testing of 5G speeds) 4G works with 600 MHz and 5.8 GHz. Most 4G carriers/telcos use frequencies below 3GHz (3000 MHz). Verizon in the US uses 700 MHz, 1700 and 1900 MHz, AT&T uses 850 MHz and 1900 while most European carriers use 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz bands, again well below the maximal 5800 MHz. You might remember the WiFi WiGig 802.11ad standard that Intel, Qualcomm and a few others were pushing and with this 60 GHz bandwidth. 5 Gbps speeds were possible even a few years ago, but it was very range limited and the sucessor called 802.11 ay will get to 200 to 500 meter range and 20 to 40 gbps speeds. 802.11 ad and 802.11 ay are not to be confused with 5G NR and mmWave as they serve the home wireless and not the carrier environment.
The mmWave are not perfect as they won’t travel far, you can block them with many obstacles, like trucks driving by, they will bounce and scatter, but essentially they have very good properties and can enable good speeds, as long as you have the antenna(s) to get it to the end point. The solution is and always was the propagation of waves.
Now Qualcomm managed to solve this problem making the QTM052 for mmWave, QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF and X50 for general 5G combo and this will go to phone manufacturers very soon. Phones and other 5G devices based on these components are expected in early 2019. If I was a betting man I would imagine that Barcelona Mobile World Congress in late February 2019 will be the place to see the first 5G phones.
Big players in US including AT&T and Verizon are betting on mmWave and already committed to bring this technology to the masses in 2019. Now it won’t be just a fixed point internet with fast speeds, with four antenna solution from Qualcomm now you can have the mmWave in a phone form factor. The general idea is that with four antennas in a phone form factor even if your hand blocks two antennas, you will still have two to get to the desired speed. The best hope is that your hand blocks one out of three antennas and you get even faster.
mmWave spectrum available
The mmWave answer is extremely important as there is a lot of spectrum available too. Carriers around the world had a plan to use super-fast properties of mmWave for fixed applications until Qualcomm managed to solve this problem and get four antennas into a phone form factor. Instead of one antenna, now you need multiple to get the range and signal.
We had a multiple discussion over the last few months with Sherif Hanna Director of Product Marketing around 4G and 5G at Qualcomm and plenty of other from the 4G and 5G team about the importance of millimeter waves. Sherif reminded us that Qualcomm already demonstrated 4.5 Gbps using mmWave at its 5G event and we were there to witness that.
They did point out how hard it was to get four antennas in this small form factor and make everything work in this RF challenged environment.
The QTM052 mmWave antenna modules work in tandem with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem. The solution supports advanced beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking technologies, drastically improving the range and reliability of mmWave signals.
They feature an integrated 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end components and phased antenna array. They support up to 800 MHz of bandwidth in the 26.5-29.5 GHz (n257), as well as the entire 27.5-28.35 GHz (n261) and 37-40 GHz (n260) mmWave bands.
The QTM052 first the phone form factor allowing OEMs to launch 5G devices with mmWave support in early 2019. Of courses these 5G phones based on the next generation Qualcomm 5G SoC will also support very widely used sub 6 GHz spectrum bands.
The QPM56xx RF module family including the QPM5650, QPM5651, QDM5650, and QDM5652 is designed to allow smartphones based on the Snapdragon X50 5G modem to support 5G NR in sub-6 GHz RF bands.
The QPM5650 and QPM5651 feature integrated 5G NR PA/LNA/Switch and filtering subsystem. The QDM5650 and QDM5652 feature integrated 5G NR LNA/switch and filtering subsystem for diversity and MIMO support.
All four modules offer integrated SRS switching required for optimum massive MIMO applications and support for 3.3-4.2 GHz (n77), 3.3-3.8 GHz (n78) and 4.4-5.0 GHz (n79) sub-6 bands. These sub-6 GHz RF modules provide mobile device makers with a viable path to delivering on the promise of 5G NR massive MIMO technology in mobile devices.
Both the QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family are now sampling to customers.