Hot on the heels of the 5G momentum that saw Qualcomm announce working with 18 different device OEMs and 18 different network providers to bring 5G hardware and carriers online for wide adoption in 2019, the mobile giant is launching another 4G LTE modem. The new Snapdragon X24 LTE modem will provide connectivity speeds as high as 2.0 Gbps (Cat 20) and happens to be the first chip officially announced to be built on a 7nm process technology. It will be shipping in products by the end of 2018.
With the 5G wave of products just on the horizon it might seem odd to see Qualcomm launch yet another LTE modem, especially one that offers such high performance and capability. The truth is that while 2019 will see the first nationwide (and global) 5G networks launched, 4G LTE will remain a fallback for the many years going forward. In fact, the first 5G devices (phones, laptops, tablets) will be connected to both 5G and 4G networks simultaneously to maintain connectivity through location changes. This will be temporary as the 5G networks scale to outdoor and internal designs, but expect that to be the case for at least 5 years.
As a result, newer LTE modems will remain a key differentiation point for mobile devices and chipsets. While the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform (Sebastian recently posted a story with early benchmarks if you’re interested) uses the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which only runs at 1.2 Gbps peak download rate, the new X24 will start by shipping as a discrete modem/chip solution. As has been the case with the X16 and X20 before it, you should then expect to see the X24 integrated into the next-generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon application processor.
Obviously the flagship feature of this new modem is its ability to raise peak download speeds to 2.0 Gbps, doubling that of the X16 modem that brought Gigabit-class LTE to the world. This is possible due to the chips ability to handle 7x CA (carrier aggregation) downlink and improved unlicensed spectrum support. You can see from the diagram above that the X24 modem greatly increases the complexity and potential combinations of spectrum.
The Snapdragon X24 also marks the first publicly announced 7nm chip in the world. Though it wasn’t confirmed by Qualcomm, this is being made at TSMC, the only foundry with currently available 7nm technology in place. This move to a new technology means Qualcomm can offer a chip that is smaller and more power efficiency than would be possible on 10nm or 14nm nodes. The company also has the world’s first 14nm RF transceiver chip to pair with the X24 modem, another improvement in power and space efficiency.
Qualcomm will be demonstrating the new Snapdragon X24 modem technology running at 2.0 Gbps at Mobile World Congress, working with Ericsson, Telstra, and Netgear later this month.