Qualcomm is introducing a 5G cellular modem chip that the company says is capable of delivering peak wireless download speeds of 7 gigabits per second to mobile devices.
That's on par with the bandwidth of fiber-optic landlines. The company announced the Snapdragon X55 as it pushes out its second generation of 5G silicon spanning cellular modems, antenna modules and radio frequency front-end chips—all before 5G networks are operational.
But those announcements are coming, with several smartphone makers expected to show 5G handsets at the annual Mobile World Congress trade show next week in Barcelona, Spain.
The new chip family highlights Qualcomm's big bet on 5G the fifth generation wireless technology that promises to deliver high speeds, imperceptible transmission delays and improved reliability and security compared with existing mobile networks.
Qualcomm tends to do well during the early years of technology transitions to more advanced wireless networks. It is believed to have a technology lead over rivals in 5G—though it does have stiff competition, particularly from China's Huawei.
The company could use a boost from 5G. It's fighting a wide-ranging legal war with Apple over patent licensing fees. That, and Apple ditching Qualcomm chips in favor of Intel and an overall slowdown in smartphone sales, has hurt the San Diego company's financial results.
About 20 wireless carriers worldwide are expected to start 5G networks this year, including operators in the U.S., China, Europe, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
Qualcomm's first generation of 5G chip, called the Snapdragon X50, was announced in 2016. It will power more than 30 5G devices released this year, according to the company.
Its second-generation 5G modem chip—the Snapdragon X55—is being tested by device makers now and could show up in products late this year.
The Snapdragon X55 can deliver 7 gigabits per second at peak download speeds and 3 gigabits per second upload on 5G networks.
That's up from the 5 gigabits per second peak speeds of the Snapdragon X50 enabling faster mobile cloud computing, multi-player mobile gaming, 360-degree video and instant-on apps, among other services.
The chip supports all previous generations of cellular technologies from 2G to 5G, which could help push it into devices beyond smartphones, including always-on laptops, connected cars and automated factory equipment. It also works with virtually all frequency bands used for cellular communications globally.
Where 5G networks aren't yet available, the Snapdragon X55 is capable of delivering peak download speeds of 2.5 gigabits per second on existing 4G LTE networks.
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