5G

5G

The world’s first gigabit mobile network is now live – Update

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Update, January 31: A little later than promised, Australian operator Telstra flicked the switch on the world’s first commercial gigabyte LTE network. Now available in select areas in central Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, the network offers theoretical transfer speeds of up to 1Gbps, several times faster than existing 4G networks.

The world’s first gigabit mobile network is now live – Update

Telstra worked with Ericsson to deploy this fast new network, which uses 4×4 MIMO and 4X carrier aggregation to achieve blistering transfer rates. Speed tests demonstrated by Telstra showed 930 Mbps downloads and 127 Mbps uploads, enough to transfer a 3GB movie in three minutes. In order to take advantage of these capabilities, devices will need a compatible modem. X16, the first on the market, is supplied by Qualcomm. The first device to use this modem is a mobile router from Netgear, the Nighthawk M1 (via Android Central).

Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 835 flagship processor integrates the X16 LTE processor, so in the near future smartphones should be capable of harnessing Telstra new gigabit network.

Read: Everything you need to know about the new Snapdragon 835

For more technical details, check out the original post below.

Original post, October 18: Along with its latest mid-range Snapdragon processors, Qualcomm has just unveiled its first 5G X50 chip and more details on its X16 LTE modem that will likely end up powering the next generation of connected devices. To help deploy these faster data speeds to consumers, Qualcomm is also partnering with Netgear, Ericsson, and Australian carrier Telstra to deliver a super fast gigabit-ready network before the end of the year.

For smartphones, the X16 LTE modem builds on the X12 LTE technology found inside today’s high end Snapdragon 820/821 mobile processors. The X16 LTE boasts improved 256-QAD (quadrature amplitude modulation) and 4 band 20MHz carrier aggregation technologies which allows for theoretical download speeds of up to 1Gbps. The uplink features a more familiar 64-QAM 2 band carrier aggregation design that can achieve peak upload speeds of 150Mbps.

However, we know from experience that these theoretical maximums are seldom reached in reality and depend heavily on the available network connection too. Initial tests of the X16 modem are displaying average downlink speeds of 112Mbps to 307Mbps, with highs of 533Mbps in areas with optimal signal strength. That’s still amazingly fast, and will certainly help power growing demand for 4K video and virtual reality experiences. Qualcomm states that the X16 LTE modem will feature in its next generation 2017 flagship mobile SoC, the Snapdragon 835.

See also:

LTE Advanced Pro and the road to 5G explained

April 5, 2016

The X16 was actually talked about back in February, but the modem has now appeared in its first commercial piece of technology. Netgear has unveiled its new Mobile Router MR1100 that can hit gigabit speeds by leveraging the X16’s 3x carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO technologies. This hotspot will work with Telstra’s upcoming gigabit network, which is being developed in conjunction with Ericsson and will roll out before the end of 2016. Other carriers are planning to launch their own gigabit networks over the coming year.

Qualcomm is, of course, already looking further ahead to the future of ultra-fast 5G networks too, and has unveiled the industry’s first commercial 5G modem solution – the Snapdragon X50.

The X50 is designed for multi-mode 4G/5G mobile broadband and can be paired with the company’s Snapdragon processors that feature a Gigabit LTE modem, such as the new X16, for fast speeds on both current and future networks. The Snapdragon X50 5G modem extends a chip’s 4G LTE capabilities with support for millimeter wave spectrum in the 28GHz band, additional MIMO antenna technology, and adaptive beam-forming technology.

“The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase,” – Cristiano Amon, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc

The use of shorter wavelengths allow for much high data speeds, at a cost of transmission distance. Qualcomm states that the X50 offers up to 800MHz of bandwidth, which could produce theoretical maximum download speeds of 5Gbps. Although again, real world speeds will be lower.

Before 5G ready consumer devices hit the market, Qualcomm is offering the X50 as a packaged platform for OEMs. The Snapdragon X50 5G platform will include the modem, the SDR051 mmWave transceivers, and the supporting PMX50 power management chip.  Qualcomm anticipates sampling the X50 in the second half of 2017, with availability in consumer devices appearing in 2018.

There’s still a while for consumers to wait until 5G networks are ready for prime time, but Qualcomm’s head-start is enabling developers to start designing future products and ensuring itself a place in upcoming flagship smartphones. In the meantime, customers can look forward to the benefits of faster 4G LTE networks with upcoming gigabit networks and products next year.

AT&T plans to launch its first 5G video network trials in 2017

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AT&T is offering more information on its plans to trial its 5G network service in 2017. The wireless carrier has already launched business customer trials for 5G speeds in Austin, Texas, and plans to expand its efforts in the next year.

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Best AT&T prepaid Android phones

2 weeks ago

AT&T says it will begin a new trial in the first half 0f 2017 for a number of residential customers in Austin, where they will be able to access the recently launched streaming TV service DirecTV Now via a fixed 5G wireless connection. The company says that this test will see how its wireless mmWave technology can handle video traffic. More mobile and fixed wireless 5G trials are expected to begin sometime in the second half of 2017, using the New Radio specification that’s being developed by the 3GPP standards group. However, it’s going to be several years before 5G speeds are available on a wide basis.

AT&T added that it will also continue to update its current 4G LTE-Advanced network, and says that some of its cell sites will be able to reach theoretical download speeds of up to 1 Gbps sometime this year. The company’s fiber network is also getting some improvements, and it currently supports speeds of up to 1Gbps at 4 million locations across 46 US metro areas. The plan is to increase those numbers to 12.5 million locations across 67 metro areas by mid-2019.

AT&T starts testing its 5G network in the field

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5G is coming.

In February of this year, AT&T announced that it was getting ready to push its new generation of networking technology into the wild. This week, the company announced that it has officially begun working with Intel and Ericsson to bring 5G of of the lab and into a realistic testing environment.

The company says they are using millimeter wave technology to power the 5G experience. This technology is said to be up to 40 times faster and reach 4 times as far as current 4G technologies, and AT&T is saying they are able to achieve speeds of over 1 gigabit per second. These are absolutely astronomical speeds, and if brought into the consumer sector, would revolutionize the way we get information. AT&T says that with their new 5G tech, a consumer could download an entire TV episode in as little as 3 seconds.

See also:

Mods could one day bring 5G data to the Moto Z series

4 days ago

AT&T says the trial will test multiple use cases for its gigabit internet. They will be using internet access, VPN, Unified Communications applications, and 4K video streams to show just what the network can do, and is hoping to revolutionize talk via new 15 and 28GHz spectrum VoIP.

Unfortunately, the company hasn’t given a time-frame as to when we can expect this technology to hit the market. Verizon is also actively moving towards testing their own 5G network, so at this point it is essentially a race to see who can get there first. One thing is for sure however, whoever does is going to have some serious bragging rights.

Are you excited for this new technology? Being able to access almost any information instantly is something I personally can’t wait for, and it will be an amazing day when we can download an entire TV show in an instant.

4G smartphone shipments expected to reach 1.17 billion for 2016

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The International Data Corporation predicts that worldwide smartphone shipments will reach 1.45 billion this year, 1.17 billion of which will be 4G enabled devices. That’s a significant increase from last year’s figure, with 967 million 4G devices shipped.

See also:

Samsung will only launch 4G phones in India from now on

October 21, 2016

According to IDC’s report published today, we are likely to see a significant year-to-year growth rate in 4G smartphone shipments for this year. 21.3 percent, to be exact. Whereas last year, we saw 967 million 4G smartphone units shipped, the figure for this year is expected to surpass the one billion mark.

In terms of overall smartphone shipments, the year-to-year growth isn’t all that substantial: at 0.6 percent, the total number is expected to be around 1.45 billion units for 2016. This means that the ratio of 4G smartphones in the overall number of units has increased dramatically over the year.

4G technology is very mature in markets like the US and Canada, Western Europe, and certain Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. In fact, Korea was not only the first to launch LTE-Advanced, but is eyeing to be the first to launch 5G to coincide with the Winter 2018 Olympics. Well, combine all that with developing countries and their fast growing 4G markets, it makes sense that 4G enabled smartphones are becoming more and more prevalent and feature phones alike are disappearing into the background.

With developing countries and their fast growing 4G markets, it makes sense that 4G enabled smartphones are becoming more and more prevalent.

According to the IDC, that trend is going to continue as the prohibitively expensive 4G data tariffs are no more in emerging markets: many manufacturers are already offering affordable 4G smartphones in these markets, and local carriers are taking advantage of the occasion by providing attractive data pricing.

The report also offers some insight into the impact of Google’s Pixel phones on the Android ecosystem: although the search giant has been aggressively marketing the Pixel duo, it is unlikely that the current hierarchy – where Samsung and Apple are at the top – will change anytime soon.

Do you own a 4G enabled smartphone? Do you think feature phones or 3G phones are a thing of the past? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

Qualcomm has made some big announcements this year, introducing its first 5G modem, promising gigabit LTE speeds, and most recently announcing the industry’s first 10nm processor in collaboration with Samsung. Consumers are demanding a lot for from their phones these days, beyond just more power for apps and games.

The trend towards dual cameras requires specialized ISP hardware, while stand-alone and smartphone based virtual reality, which is being pushed by Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream, are requiring innovative compromises to slim down into a mobile form factor.

Over the past couple of years, these new demands have changed the way that Qualcomm is approaching processor design, and it seems that the aim is to allow the company to cater to more than just smartphones, as we’ve already seen with drones and virtual reality.

While the Snapdragon 835 is going to be next year’s flagship design, Qualcomm also looks to be building on its existing technologies for lower power IoT devices, cloud computing, and machine learning capabilities too. Here’s what the company has been up to.

Machine learning and heterogeneous compute

While much of the talk around machine and deep learning focuses around cloud compute solutions, there are a growing number of use cases that work best on edge and mobile devices. This is where developments in heterogeneous compute are becoming increasingly important, and Qualcomm has been making strides in this area since the introduction of heterogeneous processing with its Snapdragon 810, as did other SoC developers that made use of ARM’s big.LITTLE technology.

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

Machine and Deep Learning projects are increasingly rapidly, but require new hardware solutions too. Source: Bloomberg

In the mobile space, we first really started talking about heterogeneous compute with the unveiling of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 and how the company planned to improve the performance and energy consumption of image processing and other tasks by running them on the best core in the SoC.

We’re not just talking about loads spread across the CPU and GPU here, but Qualcomm has long been using its Hexagon DSP and Spectra ISP units to offload some tasks too. The idea is that by picking the most efficient component for the task, performance goes up and power consumption goes down.

This trend is sure to be a key part of Qualcomm’s strategy going forward, particularly when used in conjunction with machine learning to improve the features available to consumers. Examples of machine learning applications range widely depending on the hardware, and this isn’t just limited to mobile products.

The automotive market, drones, and smart homes are all primed to make use of machine learning to offer consumers enhanced functionality. This can range all the way from object and voice detection right up to autonomous driving vehicles. In fact, Qualcomm already has a dedicated automotive Snapdragon 820 processor designed with machine learning and communication in mind, although the core features are very similar to the smartphone chip.

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

Other machine learning examples could include improving device security through facial or voice recognition, to taking a picture and having the software automatically make sure that your family members are in focus. Roughly only 1 percent of smartphone applications are currently making use of machine learning, but International Data Corp expects this number to grow to almost 50 percent of apps in the next two to three years.

See also:

Qualcomm Kryo and heterogeneous computing explained

September 3, 2015

Of course, it’s not just Qualcomm and OEMs that are going to be working on machine learning, third party developers are likely to have plenty of good ideas themselves. In order to facilitate easier and optimised development on Snapdragon devices, Qualcomm launched its Neural Processing Engine SDK earlier in the year, which currently supports Snapdragon 820 series processors. The platform supports common deep learning frameworks, including Caffe and CudaConvNet.

There’s also a growing demand for dual camera technology, iris and facial scanning, and virtual reality, which all require an increasing number of complex compute algorithms to be run on today’s smartphones too. However, mobile is limited by very strict power and thermal constraints, which brings its own challenges when it comes to performing these intensive tasks efficiently. Hardware specializations and heterogeneous compete are the keys to overcoming these problems in mobile.

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

Learn more:

What is machine learning?

July 7, 2015

There are a wide range of possible task types with machine learning, some of which run better on CPU type hardware, others on the GPU, and some on dedicated hardware like a DSP. Many of these tasks also need to be done in parallel, so spreading workloads across different cores is essential to bring this type of functionality to consumer.

Eventually, Qualcomm envisions even more dedicated hardware modules included inside SoCs to greatly improve the energy efficiency of the compute heavy tasks, estimated to be anywhere in the region of 4x to 20x more efficient.

We will have to wait and see what type of specializations and tasks are most common before a dedicated pieces of silicon are deemed worthwhile. In the meantime, Qualcomm’s Hexagon DSP, Spectra ISP, and array of smaller sensor processing units, which complement the CPU and GPU that consumers may be more familiar with, are allowing the company to offer optimized hardware for developers looking to get to grips with these new challenges.

We’ve seen a similar take with HiSilicon’s new Kirin 960, which moved ISP hardware into the SoC specifically to deal with enhanced image processing.

Augmented and Virtual reality

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

Qualcomm’s example of a possible future pair of augmented reality glasses.

Machine learning and heterogeneous computing isn’t just destined for smartphones and cars though, it is also an important part of Qualcomm’s vision for virtual reality products too.

The wide range of sensors for vision and spacial awareness, combined with demanding 3D graphics and a much smaller power budget than PC based equivalents, means that mobile AR and VR platforms have to be especially power and performance efficient.

Here’s just a small set of examples about how different processing requirements could be balanced across a heterogeneous processor.

  • CPU – apps, messaging, email, weather, etc
  • Sensor Processor – motion tracking, gyroscope, temperature, etc
  • ISP – dual / 3D vision cameras, eye tracking, iris detection
  • DSP – 3D positional audio and binaural simulation, object detection, facial recognition, gesture detection, noise cancellation, speech recognition and learning
  • GPU – Real time graphics, machine learning, and user interface
  • Modem – 4G LTE, WiFi, and 5G upload and download for cloud processing

Although augmented and virtual reality will offer users very different experiences, there’s a lot of overlap in terms of hardware and software requirements, particularly when it comes to sensor and graphics processing, and these are really just an extension of today’s smartphone technologies.

Camera sensor counts in VR and AR headsets could reach 4, 8, or higher depending on the use case, and eye tracking is likely to be key to implement important technologies for GPU efficiency like foveated rendering. However, these type of technologies require additional processing power and are often tied into machine learning algorithms, which all ties back into dedicated hardware to make this all run efficiently in compact mobile form factors.

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

Now, it is possible to provide many of these features with their own dedicated components. An image processor for object recognition, a dedicated DSP for audio, micro-controllers to handle sensors, and a separate CPU to tie the system together. Although highly flexible, this is a very costly and more developer intensive than purchasing a solution that packs all of this into one chip.

Qualcomm has become increasingly focused on providing complete system solutions in a single chip in recent years, as can be seen by the integration of ISP, DSP, and sensor technologies directly into its Snapdragon series. This also allows Qualcomm and OEMs to optimise the hardware to offer these type of features as efficiently as possible, with tight integration between modules for higher peak performance.

There is some risk and trade-offs in predicting the type of features that OEMs are going to want, but Qualcomm is betting that developers are looking for fast-to-market rather than highly custom solutions, especially for emerging fields like virtual and augmented reality.

See also:

Which phones come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor?

6 days ago

5G at the heart

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

While we may know Qualcomm best for its Snapdragon range of application processors, enhanced connectivity – particularly looking towards 5G – is shaping up to be at the heart of many future connected experiences. This applies not only for higher resolution video content, but for streaming VR and AR experiences, sending data for computation in the cloud, and even transmitting location and driver assistance data to vehicles out on the road.

Qualcomm’s recently unveiled X50 5G modem aims to offer up download speeds up to 5 Gbps through support for 8 x 100MHz band carrier aggregation for enhanced bandwidth, up from the 4 x 20MHz CA seen into today’s leading modems. The chip also supports 28GHz millimeter-wave technologies in the form of Verizon’s 5GTF and KT’s 5G-SIG, which could both grow into future 5G standards. It’s a cutting-edge solution that will likely end up powering the first 5G smartphones and tablets in the coming years.

See also:

Verizon posts its 5G spec: first U.S. carrier to do so

July 12, 2016

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

5G isn’t just about providing ever faster data speeds to consumers though, it’s also about connecting up millions of small, low power internet-of-things (IoT) devices across home and industrial markets.

Qualcomm is prepared for this too, with its ultra low-power cellular modems designed for a range of IoT devices. These can support a range of products from smart buildings or appliances that might transfer moderate amounts of data, right down to smart industrial monitoring hardware that may be located on the cell edge and may only need to transfer 10s of Kbps rather than 100s of Mbps.

Specifically for these IoT situations, Qualcomm has its Cat-NB1 compliant MDM9206 and MDM9207 modems already on the market. The MDM9206 can last for several years on just AAA batteries.

In the broader picture, making an early play for 5G is going to give Qualcomm a head start when it comes to not only powering 5G smartphones, but also a wide variety of connected products.

Internet of things

While we are on the subject of IoT, it’s worth noting that it’s not just Qualcomm’s range of Snapdragon processors that are going to be powering this anticipated technology revolution. Qualcomm also offers developers a range of WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellularly connected products complete with an integrated microcontroller with various processing capabilities. These fall under the company’s CSR, FSM, IPQ, and other integrated solution ranges.

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

The number of internet-connected things is ramping up exponentially and is increasing demand for well connected processing packages. Source: digireach

Furthermore, Qualcomm is also in the midst of acquiring integrated circuit manufacturer NXP at a cost of $47 billion. No small investment. Once this is completed, Qualcomm will have access to a wider range of of integrated circuit technologies ranging from transistors through to ARM microcontrollers suited for the automotive market and a range of other electronics applications.

This will certainly help the company expand on the more than 1 billion IoT devices already on the market that use Qualcomm chips. The company predicts that there could be as many as 25 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020.

Beyond phones: Why Qualcomm is betting big on machine learning, VR and 5G

See also:

Qualcomm to acquire NXP Semiconductors for $47 billion

4 weeks ago

In this regard, and across the mobile and automotive sectors, Qualcomm is looking to provide a selection of integrated solutions that will speed up the development cycle. This can be seen through Qualcomm’s increasing number of development boards, from its Snapdragon Flight Development Kit, through to its Snapdragon VR820 reference headset design. Of course, there’s a trade-off in terms of chip size, stricter thermal limits, and higher costs if developers and manufacturers don’t end up making the most of the additional technologies packed into Qualcomm’s silicon.

Qualcomm is certainly keeping its chips on the cutting edge of emerging consumer and technology trends, but this is just as much a risk as it is an achievement. With IoT still not quite winning over the mainstream and many customers still hesitant about the costs and benefits for virtual reality, not to mention failed AR projects like Google Glass, there’s the risk that simpler, more specialized chips could gain an advantage in the mobile space.

However, if Qualcomm is right and AR, VR, IoT, and smart automotive are the next big fields in consumer electronics, the company is quite far out in front when compared with other smartphone SoC manufacturers.

Huawei and DOCOMO conduct word’s first large scale 5G field trial

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Huawei and NTT DOCOMO, a Japanese telecommunications provider, have successfully completed the world’s first large-scale 5G field trial in the 4.5 GHz frequency band.

During the trial, conducted in Yokohama, Japan, a total user throughput of 11.29 Gbps and less than 0.5-millisecond one-way user plane latency were achieved in the “macro cell coverage of a real urban application scenario”.

The test was made up of “a base station that works in the 4.5 GHz band with 200 MHz bandwidth, 64 TRXs and 23 UEs of both static and mobile types,” explained Huawei. The 0.5-millisecond latency achieved is about one tenth of that seen on LTE.

Huawei and DOCOMO conduct word’s first large scale 5G field trial

Huawei said that this was a “leading-edge breakthrough of foundational importance” in shaping the future of the 5G network, while Mr Takehiro Nakamura, Vice President and Managing Director of NTT DOCOMO’s 5G Laboratory said the trial’s success had “brought the whole industry one step closer to 5G commercialization by 2020.”

Yesterday, US carrier AT&T urged regulators to finalize the initial 5G standards by December 2017 instead of the planned June 2018 launch, stating it wanted to “make sure the results of our trials get into the standards.” AT&T expects to release early market deployments of 5G services by 2019.

Find out everything you need to know about 5G in our dedicated article.