Qualcomm has taken the covers off its first mmWave 5G antenna for smartphones, signalling that ultrafast gigabit mobile broadband is on the horizon.
The chipmaker’s QTM052 antenna modules are the first 5G antennas designed to work with mobile phones and can work across a variety of spectrum bands. That’s a key thing here, as different 5G spectrum bands offer differences in bandwidth and performance.
According to Qualcomm, the new antenna modules can tap into the sub-6GHz RF bands and the 5G new radio millimetre wave (mmWave) spectrum. The latter has been notoriously tricky to work with given the waves are short-range and can be blocked by walls, hands and other obstacles.
Yet through the use of a quad-array of antennas, which can be dotted around a smartphone, along with beamforming and tracking technologies, Qualcomm said it has “drastically” improved the range and relatability of using mmWave signals, and a smartphone with the new antenna modules should always be able to find the nearest 5G tower.
In densely packed urban areas, where there are multiple 5G towers, mmWave connectivity makes sense, as a phone with the QTM052 antenna modules is likely to be in the range of a tower.
However, wider 5G coverage needs the sub-6GHz spectrum bands, which is why Qualcomm’s new antennas also support that spectrum range.
More 5G infrastructure will need to be in place before Qualcomm’s new tech can be fully put to the test out in the field. But we can expect the next wave of mobile wireless hotspots and flagship phones that use Qualcomm’s chips to come with QTM052 antenna modules.
“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,” said Cristiano Amon, president at Qualcomm Incorporated.
“With 5G, consumers can expect gigabit-class Internet speeds with unprecedented responsiveness in the palm of their hands, which stand to revolutionise the mobile experience.”
So it finally looks like 5G connectivity is coming over the horizon rather than continuously several years away. Given 4G coverage in the UK is still patchy, we don’t hold out too much hope that 5G will spread across Blighty like this lamentable heatwave, but it will likely pop up in a few cities before too long.