OnQ Blog

How the Snapdragon X7 LTE modem brought 4G into the future

Jul 30, 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon X7 LTE modem was a groundbreaking chipset when it was announced in late 2013 as the Qualcomm Gobi 9x35. More on the (re)naming later.

It was the first cellular modem manufactured on a 20nm process, and among the first to offer support for Category 6 download speeds of up to 300 Mbps. It did so by supporting LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation of two 20 MHz LTE carriers.

In January 2014, the Snapdragon X7 LTE modem made history as the first cellular modem to successfully complete a 300 Mbps data call on Ericsson infrastructure. This critical step paved the way for LTE Advanced networks with Category 6 speeds, since operators could see that support for such incredible speeds was now possible for mobile devices.

By mid-to-late 2014, the Snapdragon X7 LTE modem began showing up in flagship devices, including the Samsung GALAXY Note Edge. At the same time, Category 6 networks began to launch around the world in countries including Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Switzerland. On many of those networks, the only way to enjoy these higher LTE speeds was through devices powered by the Snapdragon X7 LTE modem.

These launches signaled the beginning of the “4G+” era. Until then, LTE download speeds were limited to Category 4 speeds of up to 150 Mbps peak, an experience called “4G” by a lot of operators. Carrier aggregation was not even necessary to achieve 150 Mbps—an operator with a license to a 20 MHz slice of spectrum could offer those speeds without deploying carrier aggregation,

But that also meant that the only way any operator would be able to evolve their network to offer faster speeds and better experience to consumers—to evolve from “4G” to “4G+”—was through the use of devices that featured Category 6-capable LTE modems. That’s exactly what the Snapdragon X7 LTE modem brought to the table.

As important of a flag bearer as the Snapdragon X7 LTE modem was, it has now been eclipsed by newer generations of LTE modems from Qualcomm Technologies. After all, almost two years have passed since X7 LTE was announced. That’s practically an eternity in the mobile industry which continues to impress with its rapid pace of evolution and progress.

This brings us to the name change – from Gobi 9x35 to Snapdragon X7 LTE—which took place in February 2015. We changed the name for two reasons:

  1. As I wrote earlier this year, Snapdragon processors with integrated LTE modems played a critical role in bringing advanced LTE connectivity from the lab to consumers. In doing so, they helped to fulfill the promise of the technology for hundreds of millions of people around the world. The Snapdragon name became nearly synonymous with ultra-fast, dependable, LTE connectivity. It made sense to transition our discrete LTE modems to a brand with this legacy.
  2. Given that we are constantly evolving the feature set of our modems—a feature set that is growing increasingly complex —we wanted to give our customers a simple way of distinguishing relative modem capability. So we came up with the Snapdragon LTE modem classes. In transitioning from Gobi 9x35 to Snapdragon X7 LTE, it’s easier to tell where it stands relative to Qualcomm Technologies’ comprehensive portfolio of modem classes. In the Snapdragon LTE modem class system, a higher number means a better modem. That’s it.

And this is what the new modem class system reveals: the Snapdragon X7 LTE has now been outpaced by the X8, X10, and X12 LTE modems – all in the span of less than two years. For example, the X10 LTE modem, which is integrated in the flagship Snapdragon 810 and 808 processors, is engineered to boost peak download speeds to an astonishing 450 Mbps, compared to 300 Mbps in X7 LTE.

The Snapdragon X7 LTE modem was truly a groundbreaking device, and continues to empower users around the world to experience the thrill of “4G+” speeds. Not surprisingly, Qualcomm Technologies has continued to push the envelope with newer, more advanced LTE modems since its announcement in 2013 – and will continue to do so moving forward.

Qualcomm Snapdragon and Qualcomm Gobi are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.