Qualcomm unveils 5G NR solution for small cells

Qualcomm has been supplying solutions for the small cell segment for a while, so it should be no surprise it’s introducing a 5G New Radio (NR) solution for small cells and remote radio head requirements.

The company used the Small Cells World Summit 2018 event in London to announce its 5G solution that supports both millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz spectrum bands.

The FSM100xx platform includes a software-defined modem designed to enable OEMs to easily upgrade their devices to comply with future 3GPP releases.

For the past two or three years, and to some extent even a year ago, there were a lot of questions about when the small cell market would really take off, said Caleb Banke, senior marketing manager at Qualcomm Technologies.

But over the past 12 to 18 months, there’s been a lot of excitement around small cells, even pre-5G, in areas like LAA, Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) at 3.5 GHz in the U.S. and LTE IoT Cat M, he said.

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Mobile Experts predicts revenue from global small cell equipment sales will double to $5.7 billion by 2023. The firm said carriers like China Mobile, Verizon and AT&T are driving demand in the space as they work to densify and improve their networks through the deployment of small cells. The FCC has estimated that up to 80% of future wireless network deployments in the U.S.—whether it’s 5G or densification for 4G—are going to be small cells.

Qualcomm’s solution is in the Sprint Magic Box that Airspan makes for the 2.5 GHz band, and small cells increasing are part of the core network planning, in part because the characteristics of millimeter wave make it ideal for small cells. Small cells are going to be more important for mobile operators as they seek to provide a pervasive experience in 5G, Banke told FierceWirelessTech.

Qualcomm expects its solution will be used in both indoor and outdoor deployments, but he noted the importance of having a solution in a small enough form factor for indoors. It also supports Power over Ethernet.

Qualcomm isn’t naming any names among OEM partners, but it has a lot of engagement with the suppliers of small cells and there could be new entrants, Banke noted.

The FSM100xx will begin sampling in 2019.