5G mobile data is set to be the next big revolution in how we communicate on the move. The next-generation connectivity technology is not only set to greatly increase the speeds users can enjoy when downloading data on their smartphone, but also allow many more devices to connect to the wider internet, from smart building sensors to connected cars.
Commercial 4G is still a couple of years away, but hardware makers are hard at work ensuring that future smartphones will be ready for it. One of these is chipmaker Qualcomm, which has just announced a significant breakthrough in its developments.
The company has unveiled the world's first fully-integrated 5G NR millimetre wave (mmWave) and sub-6 GHz RF module design for smartphones and other mobile devices, the QTM052, which will pair with the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem to deliver modem-to-antenna capabilities across several spectrum bands.
Until now, mmWave signals have not been able to be used for mobile wireless communications, with there being a variety of technical and design challenges making it impractical. These issues include difficulties related to materials, form-factor, industrial design, thermals, and regulatory requirements for radiated power. However, Qualcomm's announcement could change this.
Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm Incorporated, explained: "Today’s announcement of the first commercial 5G NR mmWave antenna modules and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices represents a major milestone for the mobile industry.
"Now, these type of modem-to-antenna solutions, spanning both mmWave and sub-6 spectrum bands, make mobile 5G networks and devices, especially smartphones, ready for large scale commercialisation."
Mr Amon added that 5G will enable consumers to enjoy gigabit-class internet speeds with "unprecedented responsiveness" wherever they are, which will "revolutionize the mobile experience".
Qualcomm's new QTM052 mmWave antenna modules work hand in hand with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem as a comprehensive system that works to overcome the challenges associated with mobile mmWave technology. Working as a pair, they support advanced beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking technologies, which helps to significantly boost the range and reliability of mmWave signals.
Crucially, the QTM052 modules offer a highly compact footprint, while allows up to four of them to be integrated into a single smartphone. The result of this is that manufacturers will be able to evolve the design of their devices, offering high-speed 5G solutions without compromising on attractive form factors. Such devices should be ready for launch as early as the first half of next year, Qualcomm has forecasted.
Having effective hardware plays a crucial role in ensuring devices are able to make the most of advanced mobile networks. Qualcomm recently highlighted the results of consumer speed tests conducted by Ookla, which revealed Android smartphones equipped with the company's latest Snapdragon 845 chip can download data up to 192 per cent faster than non-Android devices using other chips.