Just as smartphone makers are beginning to roll out their new flagship 5G phones with Snapdragon 865 processors, Qualcomm has just announced its 3rd generation 5G modem that’s called the Snapdragon X60. According to Qualcomm, this is the world’s first 5nm based 5G baseband and it’s also the first 5G Modem-RF system to support spectrum aggregation across all 5G bands and combinations including mmWave and sub-6. Not only this provides greater power efficiency for next-generation mobile devices but also maximises 5G performance from the available spectrum.
Apart from the Snapdragon X60, Qualcomm has also introduced its QTM535 mmWave antenna module that offers improved mmWave performance and it comes with an even more compact design. It is said to be narrower than the current QTM525 module that’s typically paired with the X55 modem. This could possibly address Apple’s 5G antenna concerns when it comes to size. The new antenna module can support 26GHz, 28GHz and 39GHz bands.
To recap, the MCMC has identified 700MHz, 3.5GHz, 26GHz and 28GHz bands for 5G usage in Malaysia. Commercial 5G deployment is expected to begin in Malaysia in Q3 2020.
Carrier aggregation is a key highlight for the X60 5G modem and Qualcomm claims that it’s a world’s first solution which enables mmWave-sub6 aggregation. This would provide the best combination of capacity and coverage. It also supports 5G FDD-TDD sub-6 carrier aggregation, 5G FDD-FDD and TDD-TDD carrier aggregation as well as Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) which allow operators to reuse LTE spectrum for 5G usage. The solution promises to deliver higher average network speeds and accelerate 5G expansion.
On paper, the 5G modem-to-antenna solution can deliver up to 7.5Gbps downloads and up to 3Gbps for uploads. Qualcomm says that sub-6GHz carrier aggregation in 5G SA networks is expected to offer double peak data rates compared to solutions without carrier aggregation.
Unfortunately, the new 5G modem solution won’t be ready for this year’s devices. At the moment, the new X60 and QTM535 samples are expected to ship in the first quarter of 2020 and you can expect it on new devices in early 2021. As mentioned in a joint settlement agreement between Qualcomm and Apple, the Snapdragon X60 Qualcomm modem is expected to be included in 2021 iPhone models.