Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access Platform to Bring mmWave 5G Performance to the Network Edge in 2022

The News: Last week, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. introduced its second generation of 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) platform, powered by Qualcomm’s powerful new Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System. The new Fixed Wireless Access platform includes Qualcomm’s new second generation 5G Fixed Wireless Access Platform Reference Design to help OEMs accelerate their commercialization of 5G FWA Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs) and deliver peak data download speeds of up to 10 gbps over 5G networks. As with most CPE solutions, this CPE-specific platform is designed for plug-and-play installations by users, eliminating the intervention of a technician.

Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access Platform to bring mmWave 5G Performance to the Network Edge in 2022

Analyst Take: Because Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access platform can deliver blistering 10 gbps peak data download speeds to the network edge, it will soon allow network operators to expand mmWave 5G service to suburban and rural areas, as well as inside large buildings, without the need for additional dedicated fixed network deployments.

A Breakdown of Key Technologies and Solutions Included in this Release:

  • Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X65 Modem-RF System for expanded 5G mmWave and Sub-6 GHz connectivity capabilities.
  • Qualcomm QTM547 mmWave extended-range antenna module for CPEs. This antenna module supports a range of power class requirements mandated by regulators (Power Classes 1 and 5) and a wide “scan angle” coverage, that delivers a 30 percent improvement over its predecessor. The module also supports Qualcomm Dynamic Antenna Steering which optimizes performance.
  • Extended-range 5G Sub-6 GHz support to help network operators improve coverage and capacity.
  • Sub-6 GHz support with 8 receive antennas. Note this is the world’s first solution to offer 8 RX antennas for Sub-6 GHz support on a CPE, and it is designed specifically for 5G FWA CPEs. This feature should help operators expand coverage up to 35 percent, add 20 percent more capacity, and help deliver a cleaner, stronger signal from nearby towers.
  • A new FWA Reference Design to help OEMs accelerate the design and commercialization of their 5G FWA CPEs.

A more detailed technical breakdown of Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access platform is available from Qualcomm here.

Delivering a Last-Mile Fixed Wireless Access CPE System that Delivers 5G mmWave Performance Beyond the Network Edge

Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access platform is designed to improve accessibility to ultra-fast 5G broadband service in areas where access to certain types of signals, primarily in the mmWave bands where 10 gbps peak speeds can be achieved, might otherwise be limited by distance or physical obstructions. Qualcomm’s new FWA platform essentially solves three problems for operators and consumers:

  • Extending a 5G network’s reach
  • Improving data speeds and capacity at the network edge
  • Helping more efficiently deliver up to 10 gbps peak data speeds throughout large buildings and apartment complexes

Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless platform achieves this by combining Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X65 Modem-RF System for expanded 5G mmWave and Sub-6 GHz connectivity capabilities, extended-range QTM547 mmWave antenna module, support for extended-range high power 5G sub-6 GHz, the world’s first 5G sub-6 GHz support with 8 receive antennas, and support for Qualcomm’s Dynamic Antenna Steering technology.

Who will Benefit from Qualcomm’s New Fixed Wireless Access mmWave 5G CPE Solution?

So who will benefit from Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access mmWave 5G CPE solution? Three major groups: operators, consumers, and OEMs. Here’s how each of those play out:

Operators: On the service provider side, Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access last-mile solution will make it possible for operators to offer fixed internet broadband services and peak data speeds as high as 10 gbps to homes and businesses that might have otherwise been unable to enjoy the full benefit of mmWave-enabled 5G speeds. In other words, thanks to Qualcomm’s new FWA platform, operators will be able to more easily extend the reach of their existing 5G broadband service areas well beyond the existing network edge without having to incur the capital expenditures, additional time, and regulatory headaches that come with new dedicated fixed network deployments.

Consumers: On the user/consumer side, the platform will allow commercial and private subscribers who are on the edge of 5G networks, just beyond the effective range of mmWave cells or inside large buildings, to enjoy mmWave 5G performance and peak speeds which they would otherwise not be able to.

OEMs: Qualcomm’s new Fixed Wireless Access platform and reference design will help OEMs accelerate the development and commercialization of their own next generation 5G FWA CPE solutions. Additionally, the versatility of the platform allows OEMs to accommodate the requirements of every major market around the world.

Delivering a More Consistent mmWave 5G Experience to Previously Underserved 5G Service Areas

One of two positive side-effects of this expansion of customer access to mmWave speeds, at least for operators, is that it addresses lingering misconceptions and confusion from the public about 5G data speeds.

Most wireless broadband customers may still be mostly in the dark about the difference between peak data speeds delivered by Sub-6 GHz bands vs mmWave. The former offers a noticeable improvement over typical 4G speeds, but the up-to-10 Gbps peakspeeds delivered by mmWave are where 5G really delivers on its performance promise to the public, and that is precisely the rub. While both Sub-6 GHz 5G and mmWave 5G offer considerable peak speed improvements over 4G service, the difference in performance between the two has been confusing and frustrating for many consumers. 5G customers on the network edge expecting up to 10 gbps peak speeds but maxing out somewhere below 4 gbps have been at risk of growing disillusioned and at times even angry with what they might perceive as slow, disappointing, or even unreliable 5G service.

With this last-mile FWA platform, operators can now deliver mmWave performance and peak speeds to customers who might have been left out of mmWave 5G peak speeds, and therefore help alleviate some of the frustrations that persist about 5G service.

Another benefit relates to the ability of delivering mmWave 5G to the suburbs and rural areas, and not just to urban centers. Until now, the prevailing expectation surrounding mmWave cell deployments was that network operators would focus mostly on high density markets like urban centers, stadiums, airports, highly industrialized areas, and so on, and that therefore, suburban and rural areas would mostly miss out on ultra-fast mmWave 5G performance. Qualcomm’s introduction of its new mmWave 5G FWA CPE platform changes things: By extending mmWave 5G performance to the network edge, many suburban and rural markets that fell just out of reach of the best that 5G has to offer will now have access to mmWave 5G performance just like densely populated markets. Gautam Sheoran, senior director of product management at Qualcomm, says: “This announcement further advances our efforts in addressing the connectivity divide by helping provide operators a cost-effective way to [also] deliver fiber-like internet speeds wirelessly over 5G to rural and suburban communities.”

Finally, note that the first commercially available FWA CPEs powered by the new platform should hit the shelves in H1 2022.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

Qualcomm’s Upgradable New Snapdragon X65 Modem Promises To Bring 10gbs Speeds To 5G Phones As Early As This Year 

Qualcomm Shows Massive Year On Year Growth For The First Quarter

Shifting Into High Gear: Exploring Qualcomm’s Automotive Announcements With Nakul Duggal – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series

Image Credit: Qualcomm

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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