Qualcomm teases new 1.2 Gbps LTE modem chip—will Apple adopt it for future iPhones?

By , Feb 21, 2017

Qualcomm and Apple are currently embroiled in a legal spat involving excessive royalties, casting serious doubt on the possibility of a Qualcomm-made LTE modem in a future iPhone. Today, Qualcomm teased a brand new Snapdragon X20 LTE chip, its second-gen Gigabit LTE modem.

It’s capable of fiber-like LTE Category 18 downloads of up to 1.2 gigabits per second, or one-fifth faster than the previous X16 chip. Upload speeds go up to a theoretical maximum of 150 megabits per second. It’s expected to ship in the first half of 2018.

Only time will tell if Apple plans on dual-sourcing cellular modems from both Qualcomm and Intel, in which case 2018 iPhones could theoretically support faster-than-Gigabit-LTE downlink speeds of up to 150 megabytes per second.

Snapdragon X20 is built in a cutting-edge 10-nanometer FinFET process.

It’s the world’s first-announced modem to support Cat 18 LTE and Qualcomm’s seventh-generation LTE multimode modem. The chip achieves up to 1.2 Gbps downloads by taking advantage of all-new carrier aggregation technology which uses twelve LTE spatial data streams data, each up to 100 megabits per second.

The chip supports up to 5x carrier aggregation across licensed and unlicensed radio frequencies, as well as 4×4 MIMO on up to three aggregated carriers.

Here are a few other perks provided by the X20:

  • All major cellular technologies (LTE FDD, LTE TDD, WCDMA, TD-SCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x and GSM/EDGE)
  • 40+ cellular frequency bands, including US public safety Band 14 and 600 MHz band support
  • More than 1,000 carrier aggregation band combinations
  • LTE Broadcast
  • Voice over LTE with support for Ultra HD Voice quality with the EVS codec
  • Single radio voice call continuity to 3G and 2G

It also delivers crystal clear VoLTE calls on dual-SIM devices (a first for Snapdragon LTE modems) with support for ultra-fast LTE data speeds on either SIM. With current technologies, voice calls on the second SIM are not in Ultra HD audio resolution.

The chip supports the 3.5-gigahertz band used by the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, which can be used to provide new services like private LTE-based networks.

Qualcomm has started sampling the new modem to customers and is expecting first commercial X20 chips to begin shipping in the first half of 2018.

To learn more about Snapdragon X20, visit Qualcomm’s website.

What will Apple do?

Rival Broadcom cannot supply LTE modems—the company exited that market last year as it was losing about $2 million a day in the modem business. Intel’s modem chips in iPhone 7, on the other hand, perform slower than their Qualcomm counterparts.

Will 2018 iPhones support Qualcomm’s new LTE cellular technology, do you think?

Source: Qualcomm

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  • Hussain Alsanona

    In my opinion, I don’t think this chip matter. What is the benefit of having this chip which can receive speed up to 1.2 G when the providers does not support such a high speed. For example, I have an iPhone 7 which can receive up to 450 MB and I only get around 50s mb. So there is no reason except future proof.

    • GUY

      And when that future arrives you’d already have a newer iPhone with a faster chip so these speeds are completely gimmicky.

    • Shinonuke

      Might not benefit folks in the USA but people in Europe, where mobile internet is way faster, may benefit from this

  • lemonhead

    is there actually any provider anywhere out there who supports such speeds for phones?

    • burge

      EE ( UK) are pushing out speeds of 450Mbps on selected sites and have tested a HTC M10 at Wembley Stadium and achieved speeds of 360Mbps. So if the tech is there the networks will improve to compete with each other.

      • lemonhead

        cool stuff, in a distance future we might go wireless over fibre then

      • burge

        I can sometimes get better speeds over cellular than I do with my BB. It’s just a shame by BB is unlimited and I don’t encounter any restrictions but my contract only gives me 10GB,

        You can get with EE a wireless BB router so you can get some really good speeds for your BB.

      • lemonhead

        yeah just checked our biggest provider here in Switzerland and seems there are also selected sites which offer 4G+ (450mbps)

        Just thinking a couple years ahead, you’ll just get an unlimited mobile contract and use that for home as well

      • Snailpo

        We already do wireless fiber. P2P networking is growing largely right now and can provide over a gigabit persecond ! I own a few and am loving the technology.

  • 5723alex .

    Too late. Apple will use its in-house modems in 2018.

  • nonchalont

    Apple won’t adopt this, but Samsung will.

  • GAIVS MARIVS

    Also Intel revealed its 5G modem today