Qualcomm announces Snapdragon X55 5G modem that will enable sleeker 5G smartphones


Understandably, the first generation X50 modem may have been tailored to meet the initial capabilities of 5G networks.

Mobile chip giant Qualcomm is already leading the 5G charge with key technologies such as the Snapdragon 855 chip for phones that can be configured with an X50 5G modem for faster cellular data speeds.

Qualcomm hasn't been idle in the meantime, however. The NSA networks will heavily rely on the existing 4G LTE network. We tore into Qualcomm's first-generation 5G parts after Qualcomm's big tech show, and while these "second-generation" components don't really address the issues raised in that article, they are a step in the right direction. That's because the X55 works with sub-6GHz FDD 5G networks; the X50 does not. It's a multimode 5G modem, and the first to support 7 Gbps downlink. It includes 2.5 Gbps LTE peak speeds enabled by Category 22 LTE. It supports low-band FDD spectrum.

The X55 is the successor to the X50 modem announced in 2016.

The other difference is standalone mode support.

Speaking of size improvements, the Snapdragon X55 should be a bit more space efficient.

Qualcomm says that the X55 modem supports 5G in both its mmWave and sub-6GHz spectral options. In addition to providing flexibility, 5G/4G spectrum sharing support also helps operators improve network efficiency and capacity.

Qualcomm isn't releasing the Snapdragon X55 into the wild alone, however, the company is also launching a new 5G mmWave antenna module and more advanced modem-to-antenna solutions.

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Qualcomm's modem will probably be the only one that will appear in U.S. phones in 2019.

The chip will also work with a suite of other antenna modules that can adaptively tune the antennas for the best connection and can track the power needed to ensure that a 5G connection is delivered in poor coverage areas without sucking up all of a phone's electrical juice. "We constantly get questions asking us, hey, how thick is a millimeter wave phone going to be?" That means it should take up less space in mobile phones and similar devices.

"Qualcomm Technologies is spearheading the first wave of 5G launches with our first generation 5G mobile platform". Envelope tracking was launched roughly five years ago, for LTE devices, and it optimizes how the transmit signal is powered. So does that mean you have an LTE modem on the SoC and a second LTE modem on the chip? Qualcomm designed the modem to be "much more flexible" than its predecessor.

So where does that leave the Snapdragon X50?

Anyway, expect to see devices with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 modem in late 2019. After all, it has been shopping the X50 around to device-makers for several years now: before, indeed, 5G Rel.15 was even standardized by the 3GPP.

Although Qualcomm may have been talking about the X50 for nearly three years now, for potential 5G users there's the impression that it's only just arriving. As carriers allow for wider frequency bands, this will be a crucial addition that will improve battery life of devices.

That leads to freaky arrangements like Motorola's 5G Moto Mod having its own Snapdragon 855 onboard to go with the X50, completely separate from the Moto Z3's own Snapdragon 835. Samsung, too, has a 5G modem called the Exynos 5100 that will power many Samsung devices sold outside the United States. That's great for OEMs, but it could easily get confusing for consumers already uncertain about what 5G represents. The new modem is created to work with everything from fixed wireless connectivity to laptops and automotive systems.

Qualcomm says the first X55 smartphones won't land until 2020.