Sizing Up The 5G Modem Market: Qualcomm, Intel, Huawei, Samsung, UniSOC, and Mediatek

By 2019, it's going to be very troublesome to take a look at the cellular connectivity information, and you’ll not see slogans like "5G" getting used all over the place. Everybody needs to speak about 5G in measurement, however the core of the know-how depends on endpoints to have the ability to obtain the sign, whether or not it's the 5 GHz "6 GHz" emission or the mmWave variant. Presently, six firms have joined the ring with confirmed bulletins of consumer-oriented 5G modems, which might be prepared in both 2019 or 2020. We’ll undergo all of them.

(By the way in which, I actually need an organization providing ice cream at a 5G occasion known as "mmWave" and "sub-6".)

& # 39; 5G & # 39; is a generic time period for 2 frequency units

One of many least attention-grabbing parts of 5G naming is that it truly covers two very totally different units of frequency bands, every with its personal difficulties and benefits. I wish to deal with them right here simply in case any readers on this market are new.

The primary set of frequencies known as "Sub-6", which is brief for "Sub 6 GHz". This consists of all frequency bands beneath 6 GHz, which could be cut up individually in licensed bands in frequencies beneath 5 GHz and within the unlicensed spectrum between 5 GHz and 6 GHz. This 5G mode is the best to implement – it requires much less advanced antenna arrays and likewise drives the farthest distance. Sub-6 could be thought of an extension of 4G / LTE and is basically the bottom layer for stand-alone 5G models. Consequently, it will likely be the primary one utilized in most markets.

(Be aware that "Sub-6" is displayed with totally different capitalization and dashes, relying on the place precisely as with Wi-Fi.)

The second set of frequencies known as "mmWave" as a result of the wavelength of those alerts is on the order of millimeters. That is truly in a frequency vary of 26 GHz to 40 GHz and is rather more troublesome to implement – it requires a particular antenna tuning, and it supplies a really restricted penetration of partitions and different visible obstructions (together with people). Nonetheless, it provides the best speeds and helps most customers on the similar time – consider densely populated city environments or occasions like live shows or sports activities venues. As a result of necessities of mmWave that is normally launched later and might be solely concentrated in large cities – no less than firstly. When utilizing mmWave, LTE-enabled gadgets are anticipated to have the ability to use LTE on the similar time.

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From the RFSoC sliding deck of Xilinx

Will probably be attention-grabbing to see which modems and which gadgets assist which frequency ranges and which frequency ranges are appropriate for which markets. For those who're uninterested in determining which totally different LTE tapes in your space / are supported by a specific system, prepare for one more decade on this planet of 5G.

What are my choices

In the identical means, there are a variety of LTE modems available on the market, some for sure restricted assist markets, some for non-terminals and a few that may do every little thing the 5G vogue market expects. Up to now we’ve got found the next:

Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50
Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55
(Qualcomm's FSM100xx)
XMM8160 from Intel
Huawei's Balong 5000
Samsung's Exynos 5100
UniSOC's Malaku Ivy510
MediaTek's Helio M70

There are more likely to be many extra in improvement, a few of which can have been introduced, however are regional or market particular. Nonetheless, no less than six of them might be in many of the 5G gadgets that Western markets will use.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G Modem

Extremely anticipated, Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 modem usually with the corporate's Snapdragon 855 smartphone SoC to supply the core of many 5G enabled smartphones we’ll see in 2019. That's what we noticed at Qualcomm's Tech Summit in December. The corporate introduces its 5G reference design smartphone designed for each the sub 6GHz and mmWave options.

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To allow mmWave on this reference design, Qualcomm used three of its mmWave antenna modules in numerous orientations (human fingers are blocking mmWave fairly effectively), giving the system a great 2-Three mm (1/eight inch). thicker than the flagship LTE gadgets we see available on the market as we speak. In view of this, it must be thought of that when deploying the infrastructure beneath 6 GHz, gadgets are first displayed, which subsequently solely assist sub-6 GHz bands. Nonetheless, it’s as much as the system producer to determine what’s supported.

Corporations with introduced Qualcomm S855 and X50 gadgets embrace:

Motorola Moto m3 5G Mod
Samsung on the Galaxy S10 5G (EMEA solely)
Xiaomi Mi MIX Three 5G
Sony Xperia 5G
LG V50 5G
The unnamed 5G system from OnePlus (not the OnePlus 7, which was already confirmed in December)
Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mi-Fi
Inseegos 5G Mi-Fi

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It must be famous that upon request, Qualcomm requested that the X50 be paired with the Snapdragon 855, as among the controls and DSPs are used within the SoC.

The large downside with Qualcomm's first 5G modem is that some components of the usual are usually not absolutely supported. Due to this fact, it isn’t doable to assist future SA networks (standalone networks), and there’s additionally an absence of assist for FDD frequencies or the 26 GHz mmWave bands, which might be necessary in lots of areas of the world. We subsequently anticipate X50 gadgets to have comparable restricted launch home windows as the primary 4G telephones did virtually 9 years in the past.

Qualcomm's X55 5G Modem

The X55 nonetheless belongs to the identical household. Nonetheless, this modem seems prefer it doesn’t want a companion SoC. This modem will kind the premise of the M.2 modules that Qualcomm's companions produce for his or her non-endpoint gadgets. Nonetheless, sooner or later, we’ll see it in laptops when paired with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx, which is the corporate's enterprise. Powered SoC for "at all times related PCs".

The X55 additionally solves the compatibility problems with the X50, and right here we’ve got a seemingly full, future-proof answer that appears appropriate with subsequent yr's 5G networks.

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One of many greatest bulletins in 5G deployments was that Lenovo determined to construct a high-end laptop computer with the Snapdragon 8cx and the X55 modem. One of many greatest markets Qualcomm is in search of to open up with its ACPC program this yr is the business market. For instance, for those who win a win with Lenovo in a ThinkPad, the idea of ACPC would actually be spelled out to see if it is a success or not. This suits in effectively with Qualcomm's efforts to make the ACPC idea accessible to software program focused at business customers.

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Nonetheless, the X55 modem appears to be far past the smartphone market.

Units supposed to be used with the X55 embrace:

The unnamed ACPC from Lenovo with Snapdragon 8cx
Numerous automotive purposes

FSM100xx 5G modem by Qualcomm

This modem is included on this listing solely as a result of we noticed it on the Cellular World Congress on the Qualcomm stand. In its case, it’s listed as a 10nm 5G modem focusing completely on "NR" or "New Radio". It is a software-defined modem that was first introduced by Qualcomm final yr and targets the small cell and distant radio heads markets. Subsequent to this modem was an instance of a small cell that’s anticipated to be deployed as a part of the infrastructure to permit different 5G gadgets to connect with networks.

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On the small cell system we might solely see the again; nonetheless, the 8×8 antenna discipline was clearly seen.

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The FSM100xx appears to be a extra infrastructure-based modem deployment, so it is also present in 5G CPEs or entry factors.

XMM8160 5G modem from Intel

In 2017, Intel took care of its LTE and 5G capabilities. At the moment, a lot noise was made that in 2018 AnandTech came upon that we didn’t write something concerning the modem. Regardless of the contract win for Apple iPhones with LTE modems final yr, not a lot has been stated about how good the corporate's 5G exploits are aside from demo demonstrations and the way 85% of my inbox with Ericsson / Intel appears to be spamming messages about the way to succeed "5G at four.4GHz" or "5G at four.45GHz" or "5G at four.46GHz" or have examined a number of e-mails about equally commonplace issues.

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However, the Cellular World Congress begins with information about Intel 5G. The corporate has continued its partnership with Fibocom to develop modules with Intel modems on board. Lately, Fibocom has manufactured modules with LTE modems from Intel. Nonetheless, MWC's announcement is that Fibocom will produce an M.2 module with Intel's XMM8160. We noticed the module on the exhibition space; Nonetheless, it was coated with an EMI defend so we couldn’t see the modem chip ourselves. In a dialog with Fibocom's consultant, we have been advised that they anticipate the module to be prepared by 2020. They’re ready for , software program and associated parts to be prepared. Just about every little thing. Intel stated it might work with Skyworks to create the front-end for Sub-6.

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Assist for sub 6 GHz, 4×4 MIMO and Wi-Fi 6

In spite of everything that has been stated, Fibocom confirmed some CPE for example of the place this module ought to go, and defined that they’re working with HP, Dell, and Lenovo to equip the 2020 pocket book with the XMM8160. Fibocom additionally had a documentary exhibiting the total tape assist for the module they made with Intel chip.

Up to now no firm has introduced that it’ll produce a 5G system with Intel modem. Some cash is predicted that Apple will use Intel for its 2020 5G-enabled gadgets, however this stays to be seen (assuming that Apple builds its personal modem workforce).

Huawei's Balong 5000 Modem

For many who have a Huawei system, particularly a mid-to-high-end system from the previous couple of years, you've lengthy used Balong modems. Huawei's modem capabilities have skyrocketed in recent times, and the corporate wished to showcase its modem on the Cellular World Congress – no less than by appointment. Huawei is an organization that features each end-user enterprise and a big portion of the world's cellular infrastructure, and can undoubtedly be a key participant within the coming years (relying on which governments enable it).

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For client implementations, Huawei's first modem would be the Balong 5000. It is a full multimode chip with NSA and SA features. Huawei expects it to be absolutely compliant with the 3GPP Launch 15 commonplace (that is the one which issues to client 5G). It’s going to additionally assist a big a part of the LTE spectrum.

For five G at sub-6 GHz frequencies, the Balong 5000 can allow 2x provider aggregation over 100 MHz bands, permitting as much as four.6 GHz obtain and a couple of.5 Gbps add permits. For future mmWave deployments, the modem can assist a obtain of as much as 6.5 Gbps and a Three.5 Gbps add. With the mixture of mmWave and LTE, based on Huawei, a obtain of as much as 7.5 Gbps could be achieved.

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Huawei has already introduced that its flip-up smartphone, the Mate X, might be 5G-enabled through the Balong 5000 modem, paired with the Kirin 980 chipset. We anticipate the following era Huawei flagship, maybe a mannequin of the P30 set, introduced on the finish of March, or the Mate 30 sequence with an up to date Kirin model, to obtain the Balong 5000 therapy later this yr turns into.

Samsung's Exynos 5100 Modem

The brand new Exynos Modem 5100 was introduced final summer season and declared by Samsung to be the business's first multi-mode modem. On paper, the modem helps all required requirements, each in legacy networks and new 5G NR requirements, each in sub-6 and mmWave.

Samsung at all times has the issue that they hold their plans very secret. The Exynos Modem 5100 was demonstrated in December when Korean airways first activated their 5G networks within the nation. I'm positive Samsung has proven extra at CES and MWC – however each behind closed doorways (supposedly they confirmed their first 5G modem at MWC 2018 …).

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Photograph credit: Samsung Newsroom

We anticipate the Exynos Modem 5100 to hit the market in sure 5G hotspots in addition to the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (most likely first in Korea). Korean airways are planning their business launch of the 5G community by the top of March. Due to this fact, it will likely be attention-grabbing to see if we’ll truly see the chip in among the first 5G gadgets.

UniSOC's Malaku Ivy510 Modem

By no means heard of UniSOC? Previously referred to as Spreadtrum, this firm has performed rather a lot within the low-end SoC marketplace for rising markets. For those who purchase a smartphone value lower than $ 100 as we speak, you most likely have a Spreadtrum / UniSOC processor within the system. By February 27, the corporate had entered right into a joint settlement with Intel to develop 5G modems for rising markets. Nonetheless, this collaboration is now formally over. On the identical day, UniSOC introduced its personal 5G modem, which might presumably be associated.

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The primary product is the Ivy510 modem, a part of the corporate's new Malaku household. Malaku is the identify of a excessive mountain that occurs to be barely larger than Balong Mountain, which supplies the identify of the Huawei modems. Plainly Huawei (or HiSilicon to be extra exact) and UniSOC have jumped some staff over the previous few quarters, resulting in a rivalry.

The Ivy510 might be a multi-mode modem primarily based on TSMC's 12nm course of. UniSOC signifies that the modem is 3GPP Launch 15 compliant and helps each SA and NSA community configurations. The UniSOC press launch says the modem is popping to smartphones, CPEs, Mi-Fi gadgets and IoT.

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If previous expertise with Spreadtrum gadgets is indicative, we are able to anticipate the Ivy510 to be mid-range for China and rising markets. A schedule nonetheless must be set for deployment.

MediaTek's Helio M70

Additionally on show on the Cellular World Congress was the helio M70 modem from MediaTek for 5G. Since MediaTek is a robust participant within the mid-market segments, it is vitally possible that we are going to see this chip in mid-to-high handsets. Whether or not these handsets are paired with a MediaTek SoC is one other query.

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The modem on the stand was paired with an Alcatel Mi-Fi system, so we would anticipate this modem to look first in Alcatel's primary markets (France, Spain, Italy, and so on.). MediaTek promoted the modem as supportive of SA and NSA community infrastructure, two 100 MHz channels with 2xCA at sub-6 GHz and as much as 4×4 MIMO obtain at four.67 Gbps or 2×2 MIMO add at 2.5 Gbps.

The M70 additionally helps mmWave. Nonetheless, MediaTek states that within the markets through which it performs, we is not going to see that this know-how might be used till later in 2020 or past. Then the successor of the chip will most likely seem

I'm making a 5G system: who ought to I select?

Ideally, I wish to provide you with a breakdown of every modem and its capabilities, measurement, energy consumption, and so forth. Nonetheless, most of this data is more likely to be inside companions or, within the case of Huawei, it’s more likely to solely promote to itself. The important thing parts listed below are compliance with the specs: 3GPP Launch 15 is the massive one for finish customers to ship 5G-enabled , whereas model 16 is extra for low-power gadgets.

We don’t anticipate Launch 16 to be accomplished by mid-2019, however most distributors wish to assist their compliance with the usual. Nonetheless, one of many issues right here is the optionally available elements of the usual – Qualcomm claims they assist as many as doable, which may benefit Qualcomm modems that talk with Qualcomm entry factors. Nonetheless, the event of 5G might be balanced to see if totally different suppliers are focusing on totally different markets, at what stage and at what price and with what options.

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