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Qualcomm Unveils AI-Optimized FastConnect 7900

Qualcomm Unveils AI-Optimized FastConnect 7900

The News: At MWC Barcelona, Qualcomm Technologies unveiled the Qualcomm FastConnect 7900 Mobile Connectivity system, the first to deliver AI-optimized performance and integrate Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth, and Ultra Wideband technologies in a single chip. Utilizing AI, FastConnect 7900 adapts to specific use cases and environments, delivering meaningful optimizations across power consumption, network latency, and throughput. FastConnect 7900 integrates Ultra Wideband technology, Wi-Fi Ranging, and Bluetooth Channel Sounding to create a powerful suite of proximity technologies that enables security-rich device discovery, access, and control. Read the product announcement on the Qualcomm website.

Qualcomm Unveils AI-Optimized FastConnect 7900

Analyst Take: Just because Qualcomm is busy bringing on-device AI to its mobile, XR, PC, IoT, and automotive platforms does not mean its engineers have taken their eye off the connectivity ball. Quite the contrary. With connectivity being an integral part of every technology-based UX and technology users demanding ever faster, smoother, and more reliable wireless data connections, the pressure is on to push the limits of what connectivity solutions can do. Enter Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7900 Mobile Connectivity System, with its short list of important industry firsts.

For starters, FastConnect 7900 is the first system to integrate Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth, and Ultra Wideband technologies in a single chip. Why does that matter? Two main reasons: The first is that by combining the three into a single chip and optimizing it with AI, the system can deliver energy and radio efficiencies that would not be possible if spread out across several chips, translating into better performance, low latency, more efficient power usage, and better throughput. The second, and this is not negligible given form factor constraints at play in the use cases for the chip, is that it delivers a footprint reduction (around 16 square millimeters, I am told), giving device OEMs more room for other systems, like a bigger battery, for example.

During briefings, Qualcomm emphasized FastConnect 7900’s integration of Ultra Wideband, Wi-Fi Ranging, and Bluetooth Channel Sounding to deliver a stack of proximity technologies that OEMs can leverage to enable security-rich device discovery (including finding nearby devices such as earbuds, smart tags, and other mobile devices), access, control, and device awareness all on one 6nm chip. Also spotted in the features list are a new class of RF front-end modules and next-gen implementation of High Band Simultaneous (HBS) technology—an important Wi-Fi 7 feature aiming to deliver seamless multi-device experiences.

Zooming in on the RF modules, Qualcomm’s QXM1093/6 delivers up to 50% power savings while the QXM1099/98 HBS modules deliver a 50% reduction in size on customer PCB for modem-to-antenna optimizations and longer battery life. Focusing on HBS, I spy support for the new Qualcomm XPAN (Expanded Personal Area Network), Snapdragon Seamless, which enables the seamless linking of multiple devices across multiple OSs, and the Snapdragon Sound Technology Suite (for high-bitrate music streaming over Wi-Fi at ultra-low power, from 96kHz scaling up to 192kHz).

Other specs and features of note:

  • Support for 6GHz, 5GHz, and 2.4GHz
  • Up to 5.8 Gbps data rate using 4K QAM modulation and 320MHz channel bandwidth (single channel or 160 + 160 with High Band Simultaneous)
  • Up to 4.3 Gbps with 4K QAM and 240MHz combined channel bandwidth using multiple
    streams of globally available 5GHz spectrum
  • Unique HBS technology delivers multiple links of 5 and/or 6GHz performance
  • 40% lower power usage than previous generation
  • Bluetooth 5.4, spatial audio, and ANT+ support
  • LE Audio for personal audio sharing and broadcast for listeners to share streams or join others
  • Multi-stream audio support for true wireless earbuds
  • Wi-Fi Peak Speed 5.8 Gbps
  • Wi-Fi Generations Wi-Fi 7, Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 6
  • Wi-Fi Standards IEEE 802.11be, 802.11ax, 802.11ac, 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11a, 802.11b
  • Wi-Fi Spectral Bands 6GHz, 5GHz, 2.4GHz
  • Peak QAM 4k QAM
  • High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link, 320MHz (single channel, or 160 + 160), MU-MIMO (Uplink and Downlink), OFDMA (Uplink and Downlink)
  • Bluetooth 5.4
  • Qualcomm XPAN, Snapdragon Sound, LE Audio,
  • Low-latency Gaming mode with Voice back-channel, Stereo
  • Recording, Spatial Audio
  • Qualcomm aptX, Qualcomm aptX Lossless, Qualcomm aptX Adaptive, Qualcomm aptX Voice
  • UWB Standards IEEE 802.15.4z, FiRA, CCC
  • UWB Features 1 Transmit + 3 Receive chains, with support for TOF and AOA measurement

From a market opportunity perspective, this is a smart move from Qualcomm given the popularity of Wi-Fi 7. For one, pace of adoption has been stronger for Wi-Fi 7 than it was for Wi-Fi 6 in the same timeframe. Second, it is entirely likely that 50% of the mobile premium tier will feature Wi-Fi 7 by the end of this year. Third, it is also more than likely that every major handset OEM will have at least one phone with Wi-Fi 7. I have also noticed that handset OEMs (and specifically Xiaomi at MWC) are promoting Wi-Fi 7-enabled features to consumers. This signals that the types of features and performance improvements enabled by enhanced connectivity solutions are not secondary or trivial to the market. In other words, while on-device generative AI tends to get most of the attention when it comes to making the case for the possibility of a massive reset in mobile refresh cycles starting this year, Wi-Fi 7 also appears to be part of the upgrade conversation that handset OEMs and consumers are already having. FastConnect 7900 is expected to launch commercially in the second half of 2024, so it will not take long for us to test that hypothesis. In the meantime, Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7900 is providing premium-tier handset OEMs with the perfect connectivity system at precisely the right time. Again.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

Qualcomm Introduces the Most Advanced AI-Integrated 5G Modem-RF System

Qualcomm Creates Opportunities for the On-Device Generative AI Market

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Brings Generative AI to Smartphones

Author Information

Olivier Blanchard has extensive experience managing product innovation, technology adoption, digital integration, and change management for industry leaders in the B2B, B2C, B2G sectors, and the IT channel. His passion is helping decision-makers and their organizations understand the many risks and opportunities of technology-driven disruption, and leverage innovation to build stronger, better, more competitive companies.  Read Full Bio.

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