Qualcomm Snapdragon X80 5G Modem Taps AI To Achieve Key Connectivity Milestones

Qualcomm Snapdragon X80 5G Modem-RF chip case on a black background.
Qualcomm is making a splash at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in Barcelona Spain, with several announcements, one of which is the introduction of its Snapdragon X80 5G Modem-RF system. Harnessing the capabilities of AI, Qualcomm is pitching its latest-generation modem as the most advanced modem-to-antenna platform yet, sporting some serious spectrum flexibility.

Ironically, Qualcomm's own Snapdragon X75 5G modem that it introduced around this same time last year steals some of the thunder from today's announcement, as that system entered the scene as the world's first 5G modem architecture with a dedicated hardware tensor accelerator to speed up machine learning workloads. It also brought with it AI-powered capabilities, several of which were introduced with the Snapdragon X70.

Qualcomm Snapdragon X80 5G infographic highlighting key features.

That's okay, though, because the Snapdragon X80 5G is transformative in other ways as well, with groundbreaking updates and key additions. Notably, Qualcomm highlights a handful of industry-first milestones achieved with its X80 system—it's the first 5G modem to fully integrate support for NB-NTN satellite communications, it's the first to support six receiving antennas for smartphones, and it's the first 5G modem system to feature 6X carrier aggregation.

That latter tidbit is especially notable, as it comes on the heels of T-Mobile announcing last month that it achieved the world's first six-carrier aggregation call using sub-6GHz spectrum on its live production 5G network. In doing so, it demonstrated speeds above 3.6Gbps, which is fast enough to download a two-hour HD movie in under 7 seconds, and far faster than home fiber internet connectivity as well.

Qualcomm AI Suite Gen 3 slide.

As with the Snapdragon X75 5G, the Snapdragon X80 5G boasts a peak download speed of 10Gbps and top upload speed of 3.5Gbps. It also supports all global 5G bands, from 0.6 to 41GHz, and is further optimized with Qualcomm's 5G AI Suite Gen 3 to intelligently enhance data speeds and QoS schemes.

The Snapdragon X80 also leverages AI-based mmWave range extension for fixed wireless access customer premise equipment (CPE). This is important, as mmWave taps into higher frequency radio bands to deliver speeds that come closer to fully realizing the potential of 5G, but is a shorter range solution that can be affected by obstructions and quickly degrade. Any time a company like Qualcomm can introduce a solution that extends mmWave range, that's a very good thing.

Qualcomm Snapdragon X80 5G infographic highligting different use cases.

"The Snapdragon X80 modem-RF system sets the stage for 5G Advanced and the era of intelligent computing everywhere," said Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager, technology planning and edge solutions, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "Leveraging AI is critical to the future of connectivity, this latest milestone underscores Qualcomm Technologies’ leadership at the intersection of cutting-edge AI and advanced modem-RF technology. The Snapdragon X80 5G Modem-RF System empowers OEMs and operators to create next-generation devices supporting 5G Advanced, with unrivaled capabilities and leading performance."

There is a range of applications that the Snapdragon X80 5G will find its way into, and soon—Qualcomm says that commercial devices powered by its latest-generation 5G modem will launch in the second half of this year.