The launch of 5G was so recent that it seems almost absurd to talk about 5G Advanced, the next major step in cellular technology, but the global push for cellular innovation led by the international standards organization 3GPP ( 3rd Generation Partnership Project) never stops. Version 17 of the 5G standard was frozen on March 22, 2022, followed by encoding protocols in June, and version 18, which marks the start of 5G Advanced, will not be frozen until 2024. However, work on Release 18 features and specifications have been in the works for several years, both by individual companies and collectively as part of the 3GPP standards organization.

Qualcomm has been a leading contributor to cellular standards since 2G, and the company continues to push the boundaries of cellular innovation with each 3GPP release. Qualcomm is often one to two generations ahead of its competitors when it comes to modem technology and this is more evident than ever with the announcement of the new Snapdragon X75 5G modem, which will support version 17 and be “5G Advanced Ready”. for version 18, according to the company.

Each 3GPP release builds on previous releases with a combination of new and improved technologies. Version 17 enhancements and additions include support for new frequency bands, improved reliability for low latency applications, Integrated Access and Bonding (IAB), radio access network slicing (RAN) for New Radio (NR), MIMO antenna enhancements for NR, NR sidelink enhancements, power saving enhancements, and support for Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN), more commonly referred to as communications via satellite, for IoT and NR. Version 18 (5G Advanced) will add additional coverage enhancements, network power savings, further MIMO scaling, improved positioning, AI/ML for improved performance, and NTN enhancements.

The new Snapdragon X75 modem is available as a discrete solution that supports a wide range of applications from smartphones and PCs to vehicles and industrial applications like robotics. The X75 is truly a complete modem and RF subsystem that includes the modem, transceiver and RF front end.

A key improvement of the X75 over the previous X70 modem is a unique integrated transceiver for sub-6GHz and 5G mmWave frequencies. According to Qualcomm, moving to an integrated transceiver will simplify the interface and design, resulting in a reduction in area on the PCB (printed circuit board) of up to 25%, a 40% reduction in the cost of engineering bill of materials (eBOM), and a 20% reduction in power consumption even if the platform is only used for frequencies below 6 GHz.

Another key improvement is the addition of Tensor Processing Cores for improved AI processing. Qualcomm first added AI processing to its previous-generation Snapdragon X70 modem to increase modem subsystem performance and reduce latency by improving various functions, including frequency/link selection and pattern forming. beams. According to Qualcomm, the addition of tensor processing cores increases AI performance by up to 2.5 times compared to the X70. AI capabilities also enable enhanced location tracking by combining enhanced sub-6Gz and 5G mmWave beamforming with Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals, Wi-Fi signals and information gathered from sensors. . All of these features fall within the standards proposed for version 18.

Most of the other Snapdragon X75 improvements are related to improved connectivity and performance. The X75 will feature sub-6GHz carrier aggregation for five separate frequency blocks, Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) uplink carrier aggregation, uplink MIMO antenna support, Qualcomm RF Downlink Boost technology and a switched uplink (the ability to use TDD (Time Division Duplex) time slots for FDD transmission to achieve higher transmission rates). The X75 also adds ten-frequency block carrier aggregation for 5G mmWave signals, 1024 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) for frequencies below 6 GHz, and 256 QAM for 5G mmWave frequencies. In addition to hardware improvements, the Snapdragon X75 is paired with Qualcomm’s Advanced Modem-RF software suite which offers intelligent network selection, advanced interference cancellation, and dual-SIM support.

The best way to sum it all up is that Qualcomm offers more ways to maximize the efficient use of limited spectrum and achieve Gigabit speeds on the uplink and downlink with the lowest possible latency and the most reliability. high.

Finally, the Snapdragon X75 supports both version 17 and version 18 specs, which looks like a repeat of the above specs, but without the frozen spec for version 18, full support for version 18 seems a bit out of reach at this early stage of spec development. . However, Qualcomm is once again one of the main contributors to the 3GPP specifications and is confident that the X75 can support the new and improved technologies, such as AI, included in version 18. In many cases, support for any final changes to the standards may simply require software modifications assuming that the X75 modem hardware can support the functions.

The Snapdragon X75 will also be a key part of Qualcomm’s 3rdnext-generation 5G fixed wireless access platform that will also include Wi-Fi 7 support. thinks it will be integrated into the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, which should be announced in the fall as a continuation of Gen 2. , which has an integrated X70 modem.

With just weeks to go until Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ​​this is only the first time we’ll be seeing and hearing about new chips and new products supporting 3GPP Release 17 standards and planned Release 18 support. with 5G Advanced.

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