Qualcomm drives FWA with 34 OEMs lined up for RF system

Qualcomm Technologies announced an impressive line-up of OEMs eager to use its Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System for commercial fixed wireless access (FWA) customer-premises equipment (CPE) device launches starting in 2020. The company said more than 30 OEMs have selected the system, ticking off some well-known names like Nokia and Samsung Electronics.

The announcement should come as good news to operators that want to use 5G fixed wireless as a replacement to cable and fiber. Qualcomm announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February that it had developed a reference design for 5G FWA.

Citing strong customer interest, Qualcomm said it’s extending its wireless leadership, which spans modem, RF transceiver, RF front end and antenna modules, into what it describes as a fast-growing opportunity for 5G mobile operators. The Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System covers the sub-6 GHz band, as well as millimeter wave and extended range mmWave CPE devices.  

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“Our comprehensive Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System architecture, which supports virtually any combination of 5G spectrum bands and modes, from sub-6 to extended-range mmWave, will empower global mobile carriers and OEMs to offer best-in-class 5G performance to homes and businesses, including those in previously underserved areas,” said Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm, in a statement.

“The widespread adoption of our modem-to-antenna solution translates into enhanced fixed broadband services and additional opportunities to utilize 5G network infrastructure for broad coverage in urban, suburban and rural environments," Amon added. "Due to the development ease of our integrated system and industry movement toward self-installed, plug and-play CPE devices, we expect OEMs will be able to support fixed broadband deployments beginning in 2020.”

Last month, Qualcomm announced an extended range solution to accelerate the expansion in this space, introducing the QTM527 mmWave antenna module for the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System. Qualcomm also said that by building on its existing 5G mmWave technology leadership with a high-power CPE solution for Power Class 1 devices, it’s enabling mobile carriers and OEMs to accelerate the expansion of high-speed internet access to underserved suburban and rural communities, as well as dense urban environments, with a plug-and-play, multi-gigabit alternative to cable and fiber.

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Qualcomm didn't mention Verizon in its announcement, but the carrier has acknowledged that it’s waiting for a higher power output CPE for its home 5G offering.

At an investor conference last month (PDF), Ronan Dunne, Verizon EVP and Group CEO of Verizon Consumer, said the company was ready to go to mass market on its 5G fixed wireless product, but there were two critical enablers for that—New Radio equipment, which they were in the process of deploying in friendly homes in some early markets.

He said a full commercial launch would come at the back end of this year. But he also said the second critical thing to broaden out the addressable market is the availability of high-powered CPE. The early NR CPE is effectively using a cell phone chipset in a piece of in-home CPE, whereas normally, a CPE would have higher power output. That higher power output requires the next iteration of a chipset, which he said will be available the first half of 2020.