Qualcomm upgrades its 5G modem

Mobile chip maker Qualcomm has unveiled its big MWC news early, in the form of the X55 5G modem, which is five better than its predecessor.

The new modem supports both flavours of 5G as well as all the older Gs and all the spectrum bands you could possibly want. It’s manufactured on a 7nm process and promises download speeds of 7 Gbps and 3 Gbps uploads speeds. The previous X50 modem only managed a mere 4 Gbps. Even the Cat 22 LTE part manages 2.5 Gbps download.

“With significant evolution in capabilities and performance, our second generation commercial 5G modem is a true testament to the maturity and leadership of our 5G technology,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. “We expect our 5G platform to accelerate 5G commercial momentum and power virtually all 5G launches in 2019 while significantly expanding the global 5G rollout footprint.”

That ‘virtually all 5G launches’ claim could be challenged in as little as a week. We may well see some 5G handset launches at Mobile World Congress and one of the biggest smartphone vendors – Huawei – has already launched its own 5G modem. Apple doesn’t bother with MWC but has indicated it would sooner make a bonfire out of iPhones then even be in the same room as Qualcomm.

Seeking modem autonomy is perfectly understandable but Qualcomm reckons it’s pretty far ahead of the chasing pack when it comes to the tech. Huawei’s speed claims don’t seem too far off Qualcomm’s but it’s not yet known how they compare when it comes to size, power efficiency, etc. And apart from Huawei and Apple Qualcomm will probably own the rest of the 5G market.

Snapdragon X55 claims to be the first announced modem to support 100 MHz envelope tracking technology, and adaptive antenna tuning for 5G sub-6 GHz, designed for power-efficient connectivity. Qualcomm can also presumably offer it integrated into the Snapdragon 855 SoC and thus cater to all your mobile chip needs. Here’s a vid.

 

Qualcomm teases next-gen 5G mobile platform

Mobile chip giant Qualcomm has not quite unveiled its next major mobile platform, which is designed to be paired with its X50 5G modem.

The announcement, which didn’t offer much detail, seemed designed to maintain buzz ahead of the anticipated launch of 5G devices in a few months’ time. The platform doesn’t even have a name yet, but it’s safe to assume it will be Snapdragon followed by a four digit number. We do know it will be manufactured on the 7nm process node, which will ensure it packs more of a processing punch in a smaller package than its 10nm predecessor.

“We are very pleased to be working with OEMs, operators, infrastructure vendors, and standards bodies across the world, and are on track to help launch the first 5G mobile hotspots by the end of 2018, and smartphones using our next-generation mobile platform in the first half of 2019,” said Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm president. “Qualcomm Technologies’ continued leadership in research and engineering allows for a future of increased innovation across multiple sectors as 5G connectivity becomes ubiquitous.”

The full reveal of Qualcomm’s next flagship mobile SoC will come later this year. It comes at a time when the ARM ecosystem is competing harder than ever with x86 chips in the PC and server markets. With the top three smartphone vendors all producing their own SoCs, how Qualcomm positions the Snapdragon platform to exploit non-smartphone opportunities will be key.

Huawei goes all-in on AI with Mate 10 smartphones

Having set the scene with the unveiling of its Neural Processing Unit a few weeks ago, Huawei has focused on the AI capabilities it apparently gives its new phones.

Those phones are the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which we might previously have called phablets due to their 6-inch screen size. Huawei’s latest devices have all the bells and whistles you would expect from a flagship smartphone, but the Chinese giant seems to think it has found a rare point of differentiation with the chip.

The Kirin 970 SoC is Huawei’s own design with a fair bit of help from ARM, which provided the four Cortex A73 and four Cortex A53 CPU cores and the Mali-G72 MP12 GPU that go into every one. Unique to this chip, however is the NPU (neural network processing unit – so technically NNPU), which Huawei says enables the chip to provide 25x better performance and 50x greater energy efficiency for AI-related tasks, compared to one with just four Cortex-A73 cores.

A proper comparison would be between the Kirin 970 and an octacore SoC that also has four Cortex A53 cores. They are the low-power options in ARM’s bigLITTLE architecture, so the effect on energy efficiency is likely to be especially pronounced.

Anyway, Huawei chose not to make that comparison for reasons best known to them. The other elephant in the room is the question of why greater processing power and efficiency is something we need. Are AI-related tasks especially taxing on a chip? And surely most AI-related stuff on a phone, such as smart assistants, is processed in the cloud anyway.

“As we enter the age of intelligence, AI is no longer a virtual concept but something that intertwines with our daily life,” said Richard Yu, CEO, Huawei Consumer Business Group. “AI can enhance the user experience; provide valuable services and improve product performance. The Huawei Mate 10 Series introduces the first mobile AI-specific Neural Network Processing Unit, launching a new era of intelligent smartphones.”

The vanilla Mate 10 will cost €699 and the Pro, which seems to only be a minor upgrade, will cost €799 when they go on sale in a few weeks. If, for some reason, you feel like spending €1395 instead you can get one with Porsche written on it.

Huawei mate 10 porsche