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Qualcomm Reveals 5G-RAN Roadmap

December 22, 2020

Author: Bob Wheeler

In a recent strategic announcement, Qualcomm disclosed a family of 5G-infrastructure chips it plans to sample in 1H22. Although the company now serves the small-cell segment, the forthcoming products will expand its reach into macrocells and virtual baseband units. Qualcomm says the new chips will handle all functions from the baseband to the antenna for both sub-6GHz and millimeter-wave (mmWave) bands. In keeping with its small-cell approach, it’s revealing few product details. The company sees open RAN (O-RAN) as an opportunity to expand beyond small cells, however, so it wants to raise awareness of its plans among potential customers and partners.

The expanded 5G-RAN portfolio will contain three new “platforms,” some of which probably comprise multiple chips. Two platforms address disaggregated RANs, including O-RAN. The first is a baseband accelerator designed for distributed units (DUs), built using industry-standard servers, that simultaneously handle sub-6GHz and mmWave bands. The second platform targets remote units (RUs) and includes all functions from the baseband to the RF front end. Qualcomm withheld RF details, but its RU platform will have transceiver and front-end components. Intended primarily for outdoor microcells, the third new product is what Qualcomm calls a distributed radio unit platform (QDRU), combining the RU and DU functions in an SoC.

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