Today, Qualcomm is announcing its next-generation 5G Modem-RF System, called the Snapdragon X65. It's the company's fourth-generation 5G modem, following in the footsteps of the Snapdragon X50, X55, and X60. However, that's not actually the only 5G modems that the firm has made; for example, the Snapdragon X52 is included in the Snapdragon 765G chipset. That one doesn't count as a generational leap.
That's all worth noting because the San Diego firm is also introducing the Snapdragon X62 5G Modem-RF System, and as was the case with the X52, that's going to be for more mainstream devices.
There are a few key new features to the Snapdragon X65. The big one is that it promises to be the first 5G modem that can break speeds of 10Gbps. While that's quite a feat, it's still worth noting that the vast majority of consumers still can't even get close to 1Gbps, and even fewer can get it while they're indoors. The other thing Qualcomm is touting is that it's the first 3GPP release 16 modem-RF system.
"The 5G transition presents the biggest opportunity for Qualcomm as mobile technology is poised to benefit virtually every industry," said Cristiano Amon, president and CEO-elect, Qualcomm Incorporated. "We are reaching a significant milestone with the Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System, unleashing connectivity up to 10 Gigabits per second and support for the latest 5G specifications that will play a critical role in enabling new 5G use cases not only for redefined premium smartphone experiences, but also opening a new realm of possibilities for 5G expansion across mobile broadband, compute, XR, industrial IoT, 5G private networks and fixed wireless access."
Qualcomm says that the Snapdragon X65 has an "upgradable architecture", so it's meant to be future-proofed, or at least as much as it can be. With this plan, it can roll out new 3GPP Release 16 features with software updates.
It includes the company's new 545 fourth-gen mmWave antenna module. No, it doesn't mean that you'll start getting mmWave support indoors. It supports higher transmit power and also adds the new n259 (41GHz) band. But Qualcomm also says that it's using AI for antenna tuning, and that will do things like increase accuracy of detecting hand grips; remember, mmWaves can't go through your hand or, well, anything.
The Snapdragon X65 includes other things like PowerSave 2.0 and Smart Transmit 2.0, and the latter has to do with increasing upload speeds. A lot of the trouble with upload speeds is that there's a lot more power behind a 5G antenna than there is when your phone is sending a signal back to that antenna. Now that we're at multi-gigabit speeds for downlink, keeping up with uplink is going to be an uphill battle for a long time to come.
Qualcomm said that both the Snapdragon X62 and Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF Systems are sampling to customers, and that devices using them are set to launch in late 2021. This is early for the company, as it usually announces its new cellular modem in February, announces the chipset that will include the modem that December at Snapdragon Technology Summit, and then devices start shipping the next year.
It's possible that like many other companies, Qualcomm is completely changing up its product schedule, and Snapdragon Technology Summit has been moved up in the calendar, as have product launches. Or none of that is true, and perhaps, the company is planning to sell a bunch of these modems to Apple for its next round of iPhones this fall.