We recently launched a new production facility to expand our manufacturing capacity to meet the fast-growing demand for our RF front-end (RFFE) products. With a momentous year behind us, let’s take some time to look back on the significant RFFE milestones of the past year, the consequent impact on the mobile ecosystem, and the rapid evolution to 5G.
If you listed the key technologies with the most impact on mobile today, RF front-end (RFFE) solutions would be among the top few. In addition to making multi-mode, multi-band smartphones feasible, RFFE also directly impacts a device’s battery life, the look and feel of the display (bezel size), indoor/outdoor reception, call quality, call reliability, and data speeds.
As we rapidly approach 5G, the RFFE subsystem will be one of the most challenging aspects of building mobile devices for global 5G NR sub-6GHz and mmWave deployment. Higher design complexity in 5G will require tighter coupling between the modem, transceiver, RFFE, antennas, and the network.
We believe that a component-centric approach cannot keep up with the 5G challenge, and that it will not be sufficient to offer just PAs or filters to build 5G solutions. That’s why we’re working on our RFFE capabilities, putting together a technology portfolio and roadmap that is 5G-ready and unique, including all the hardware and software needed to support a comprehensive modem-to-antenna system solution to OEMs.
A year in review: 2017 sets the stage for 5G RF
To build mobile platforms that can scale from 4G to 5G, Qualcomm Technologies invested heavily in building a comprehensive technology portfolio that allows us to develop, manufacture, package, assemble, and test superior, comprehensive RF front-ends, at a global scale.
Within a few months of completing the RF360 joint venture with TDK in February, we secured key design wins in leading smartphones. In addition to traditionally strong areas such as envelope tracking and antenna tuning, we supplied PAMiD modules (Power Amplifier Modules including Duplexers) in premium smartphones including LG V30, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, LG G6, and flagship Sharp and Fujitsu smartphones. Mid-tier smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy A5, LG X Calibur and LG K10 featured our FEMiD modules (Front End Module including Duplexers). Our discrete filters and filter extractors are in mainstream devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A3 phones, Huawei’s Honor 9, LG V30, and the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
We’re seeing strong interest in our unique full-RFFE capability. Already, devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8 take advantage of our envelope tracker, impedance tuner, diversity receive modules, aperture tuners, low-noise amplifiers, extractor, and BAW filter. The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is another example where a design takes advantage of our PAMiD module, DRx module (Diversity Receive module), and discrete LNAs.
Looking ahead in 2018
The expanded adoption of our RFFE products is a precursor to broader adoption of modem-to-antenna solutions. We expect the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform to usher strong adoption of our modem-to-antenna solutions which include new PAMiD modules (QPM2622, QPM2632, QPM2642) in the premium tier. As a result, we’re seeing a stronger RFFE design pipeline than ever before.
As LTE-Advanced lays the foundation for 5G we see notable successes in our comprehensive system-level approach to mobile design. We continue to take on the critical complexity challenges involved in full-system integration so that our customers can focus on building fast and sleek 4G—and soon 5G—mobile devices.