Jun 25, 2020
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
As the company that spent over a decade unlocking 5G, we know it can be complex. That’s why we developed a solution that enables manufacturers to create 5G devices easily and at a variety of pricing tiers.
With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 5G Modular Platforms built around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 and 765G Mobile Platforms, we’ve already done most of the work for you. By offering comprehensive hardware and software solution, these modular platforms lower the barrier to entry, reduce development costs, and allow for faster commercialization on a global scale, while unlocking compelling design possibilities.
Already, manufacturers are tapping these platforms with success, enabling devices like the Nokia 8.3 5G smartphone. Recently, Fujitsu Connected Technologies Limited (FCNT) announced the world’s thinnest 5G smartphone reference design that supports both sub-6 and mmWave, which is built on the Snapdragon 865 5G Modular Platform.
We chatted with Senior Vice President and General Manager, Handset Products for Qualcomm Technologies, Jim Tran about how Snapdragon modular platforms differ from mobile platforms and the effect they’ll have on manufacturer capabilities, device designs, and the proliferation of 5G.
How do Snapdragon Modular Platforms differ from Snapdragon Mobile Platforms?
With Snapdragon Mobile Platforms, we’re selling the key components, which OEMs then fit together with passive and other active components. Essentially, they’re putting the pieces together themselves. There can be thousands of tiny parts, and it requires significant engineering resources.
Snapdragon Modules, on the other hand, package the components of our premium Snapdragon Mobile Platforms together with Qualcomm RF Front End into one compact system. Each modular platform has three to four sections (or modules). For example, with our Snapdragon 865 modular platform, one module contains the AP and hundreds of components that OEMs would normally add individually. Another module is for the modem, and there’s a module that includes the transceiver and the RF front end, which is the radio that talks to the antenna. By packaging these together, you basically have the 5G sub-6 GHz technology you need to allow your engineering team to focus on other key differentiators.
We recognized early on that as you add more radio bands and the communication systems become more complex, devices become more difficult to build. By creating a modular platform, we’re enabling a greater number of OEMs to build 5G devices more easily. The modules reduce complexity for manufacturers, lowering the barrier to entry, simplifying the supply chain, reducing development costs, and shortening time to commercialization. What really takes the Snapdragon Modular Platforms above and beyond is that, because both the hardware and software are integrated in the modular platform, we’re able to pre-certify and ease the process for carrier compliance. With the Snapdragon Modular Platforms, OEMs can actually reduce their testing for GCF by more than 75 percent and carrier testing by more than 50 percent. We've created a system where there will just be a small delta certification, because we've done most of the initial work.
Because we’re reducing 5G complexity, more manufacturers are going to be able to make 5G devices. They’re going to bring them to launch much faster, too. This is especially important for emerging OEMs, who haven’t yet built up the expertise to efficiently take on most of the engineering steps themselves.
Already, we’re seeing new entrants in the premium and high tiers using the modular platform to develop 5G devices. We’re also seeing existing players considering entering the premium tier utilizing the modular platform. Qualcomm Technologies is an ecosystem company, and we welcome participation from a wide variety of manufacturers. I think these modular platforms speak to our heritage and also where we're headed. This is how the wireless community can expand 5G and deliver more device choice to consumers.
As 4G accumulated a lot of radio bands in order to work around the world, mobile devices became more complex. Manufacturers were running out of room inside their devices to put their PCB boards side-by-side, so they started stacking them. They just went vertical. When you go vertical, it makes the devices very thick. It also makes the manufacturing and design process very complicated, and there are very few companies around the world with the ability to do this.
We know that 5G doesn't make this any easier; it actually makes it a lot more complicated. So we took it upon ourselves to figure out how to put these subsystems in easy-to-design building blocks, so that just about anybody can make a 5G phone. By eliminating the need for stacked hardware, modular systems enable sleek, efficient form-factors. FCNT's new reference design, which is now the world’s thinnest for a 5G smartphone that supports both sub-6 and mmWave, is already showing the potential. What’s more, modular platforms also free up space that can be used for larger batteries or additional components that will provide enhanced experiences for consumers.
We can make versions of the modular platforms we build for mobile and apply them to IoT and IIoT. Essentially, the same version of module can be used for both smartphones and IoT/IIoT products. We talked about complexity in smartphones, but bringing 5G to these other industries is going to be even harder. Most traditional manufacturers haven’t worked with cellular before, so they don’t have the necessary experience or resources. Manufacturers who are building intelligent capabilities into parking meters, for example, probably don't know how to deal with complex wireless communication systems. These modular platforms will enable them to deploy 5G devices with a much simpler design and manufacturing process.
At Qualcomm Technologies, we’re excited about these new Snapdragon Modular Platforms because they allow us to do exactly what we do best: enable our customers to compete, innovate, and grow. We look forward to seeing even more manufacturers develop 5G devices, so even more people across the globe can connect, compute, and communicate with this next generation of wireless.