The big problem with 5G — or one of the big problems — is that it's suffering the same issues LTE had when it first landed: It only works in a few markets, and most phones don't support it. Worse, the few devices that do support it use external modems which aren't built into the chipset, and like the early LTE phones, that means issues like decreased battery life. Thankfully, new chipsets with 5G support built-in are on the way, with Qualcomm announcing its own earlier this year. Today at IFA, Qualcomm has further revealed that the promised chip will be landing in products as early as the beginning of next year, with more 6-, 7-, and 8-series chipsets getting built-in 5G support next year, too.
Initially, Qualcomm expected it could take until the middle of next year for phones using its upcoming 5G 7-series chipset to land, but that schedule has moved up. Already twelve hardware partners including Oppo, HMD Global, and Motorola have promised to release devices that use it — and Qualcomm even says we'll see some of them land in North America.
Better, the company is also bringing 5G integration across its higher-end lineup next year, covering at least some upcoming 6-, 7-, and 8-series devices. While we don't usually see the 7-series stuff here in the 'states, the 6-series chips are a mid-range staple, making appearances in devices such as the Pixel 3a and Moto G7. The latest 8-series chip, on the other hand, always ends up being the default for flagships in a given generation. Bringing 5G support to those series of chips could mean a mid-range and flagship blitz of 5G next year.
Qualcomm has also announced that it's rebranding its 5G solutions to make it a bit easier for consumers to follow the details. Up until now, 5G-savvy customers have had to keep track of modem names, RF transceivers, and antenna solutions to stay in the know. It gets complicated, knowing which bits are required for mmWave vs. "sub-6" 5G, or different standards and frequencies.
Now, none of that matters: Qualcomm is rebadging its complete end-to-end solutions as "5G Modem RF Systems," starting with the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem RF System. You may already be familiar with the X55, it's the modem expected to power the upcoming 5G Note10 models (though the current Verizon version uses the older X50). The new name will be an indicator that a phone uses Qualcomm's tech end-to-end from the modem to the antenna assemblies. We also asked if that meant Qualcomm would require that OEMs license or buy the entire end-to-end solution to use any part of it, and were told that isn't the case, "bundling" like that won't be forced on OEMs (this time).
The company is also really excited about a new mmWave antenna module for the X55. It doesn't really matter for phones, this is just for "fixed-wireless use," think hotspots and home broadband. It does promise up to 1.7km of range in rural areas and 1.1km in denser urban environments, though, which is more than we would have expected for mmWave. It could ultimately make a dent in gigabit ISP rollouts (assuming there aren't any buildings to block line of sight).
So, want to know why you might actually end up with a 5G phone next year? Because it will be more than just a novelty stuck in a handful of expensive phones. Thanks to these new upcoming chipsets, you'll see a whole lot more devices in a range of prices land with 5G support — hell, you might even end up buying one without caring (or maybe even knowing) that it has 5G.