US chipmaker Qualcomm has revealed its first mmWave 5G antennas, which will begin appearing in smartphones in 2019. The new fingernail-sized QTM052 mmWave antenna modules are small enough to fit inside modern handsets and will pair with the previously announced Snapdragon X50 5G modems.
The support for millimetre wave 5G is significant because, in major cities, that’s the tech that will eventually deliver the blazing Gigibit mobile data speeds the new era of connectivity promises to usher in.
Those mmWave speeds are delivered over much shorter distances and can be blocked more easily, even when simply holding the phone a certain way. However, Qualcomm’s solution lies in the four-antenna module that’s able to point in the direction of the nearest 5G tower and bounce the signals around in order to maintain connectivity.
Related: What is 5G
Because these modules are so small, up to four can be placed within the bezel of a smartphone, alongside the X50 modem at the heart of the phone. That means a total of 16 mmWave antennas performing simultaneously to ensure the user always as a route to the nearest cellphone tower. You can see how Qualcomm envisions the set-up in the diagram below.
Qualcomm will pair the mmWave antenna modules with sub-6GHz RF modules, which are better over greater distances without providing those phenomenal speeds. Together with the X50, they’ll give users access to the breadth of connectivity options available when mobile networks begin rolling out next-gen speeds next year.
In a press release, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon writes: “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. Qualcomm Technologies’ early investment in 5G has allowed us to deliver to the industry a working mobile mmWave solution that was previously thought unattainable, as well as a fully-integrated sub-6 GHz RF solution. 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.”
The first phones carrying 5G ready modems are expected early in 2019, with the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG and HTC working with Qualcomm to bring the tech to new phones next year.
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