Qualcomm targets new device segments with latest reference design

5G is flourishing in the smartphone market, but that is not enough for Qualcomm, which has launched chipsets designed for use in all sorts of other gadgets..

The US chip maker is hosting its annual 5G Summit this week, giving it a platform to show off its latest wares. Arguably the most eye-catching are the Snapdragon X65 and X62 M.2 Reference Designs, which aim to pave the way for 10 Gigabit 5G modules for PCs and laptops; home hubs; and even mixed reality and portable gaming devices. Lets not forget also the potential for myriad IoT devices that would benefit from a high-speed 5G connection.

The M.2 part of the name refers to the type of expansion slot into which this new range of modules fits. Laptops and desktop PCs have been equipped with M.2 ports for a few years now, and typically they are taken up by high-speed hard disks. However, there are an increasing number of network adapters that use M.2 to enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and so it follows that cellular would be next.

“We’ve seen a dramatic growth in data consumption as a result of remote work and higher mobility. To help meet this data demand and create exciting new products and experiences, our new 5G M.2 Reference Designs tackle many 5G design complexities upfront so that OEMs don’t have to,” said Durga Malladi, SVP and general manager, 4G/5G, at Qualcomm, in a statement.

The modules support global sub-6 GHz and mmWave frequency bands, spectrum aggregation, and claim to offer high power efficiency. As usual with announcements like this, Qualcomm lined up a bunch of OEM partners that are all champing at the bit to start making products based on its new design.

They include the likes of Compal, Foxconn, Sierra Wireless, and Telit, among others.

“We are empowering the ecosystem to bring next generation Release 16 5G products as early as late 2021 and helping create new business opportunities across computing, CPEs, XR, gaming, industrial IoT and beyond,” Malladi said.

Smartphones are still Qualcomm’s bread and butter though, which is handy because IDC expects 5G handsets to account for 40 percent of global smartphone shipments this year, rising to 69 percent in 2025.

On that note, Qualcomm unveiled an updated version of its Snapdragon X65 modem, which will bring support for 200 MHz mmWave carriers, a key requirement for the rollout of 5G mmWave in China. It also supports the aggregation of up to 1 GHz of mmWave spectrum, and 300 MHz of sub-6 GHz spectrum in either FDD or TDD mode.

Qualcomm also took the wraps off its Snapdragon 778G. Pitched at top-end smartphones, the new 5G mobile platform offers cellular – of course – but also Wi-Fi 6 at speeds of up to 2.9 Gbps.

“Snapdragon 778G was developed to address the growing demand by global OEMs for more platform options in the high-tier,” said Kedar Kondap, vice president of product management, Qualcomm. “Snapdragon 778G brings many of the latest premium technologies and features into the high-tier to help make next generation experiences more broadly accessible.”

Indeed, the Snapdragon 778G is capable of recording three photos or videos simultaneously, giving a professional-looking sheen to those cringe-worthy TikTok videos. Furthermore, it also packs Qualcomm’s latest AI processor, which comes in handy for noise suppression and context-aware use cases. Gamers will also benefit from features that lighten the load on their phone’s graphics processor, and improve battery life.

Several OEMs have already pledged to use the Snapdragon 778G, including Honor, Motorola, OPPO and Xiaomi. Devices using the new platform are expected to begin flying off the shelves later this quarter.

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