Qualcomm’s new wi-fi 7 and RF front-end modules are gunning for 5G auto and IoT device markets

Christian Block of QUALCOMM

London, UK. 27 June 2022 – Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. has launched new RF Front-End (RFFE) modules targeted for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth experiences. The expanded portfolio is designed for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6E, and the standard, Wi-Fi 7. The modules are designed for a wide array of device segments beyond smartphones including automotive, XR, PCs, wearables, mobile broadband, Internet of Things (IoT), and more.

“With Qualcomm Technologies’ new products, we are extending our RFFE leadership into automotive and IoT, helping OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) address their massive industry-specific challenges like development cost and scalability,” says Christian Block, senior vice president and general manager, RFFE, QUALCOMM Germany RFFE GmbH. “OEMs using our solutions can design products with higher performance, longer battery life and reduced commercialisation time, ultimately accelerating the pace of innovation and delivering improved experiences to consumers.”

In fiscal year 2021, Qualcomm Technologies claimed the number 1 position in RFFE revenues for handsets. The introduction of the new RFFE modules aligns with the company strategy to extend handset leadership with modem-to-antenna solutions into automotive and IoT reportedly positioning Qualcomm Technologies to be a global RFFE revenue leader across various industries. Today, most of the 5G automotive, 5G fixed wireless access CPEs (customer premise equipment) and 5G PC devices announced or in development using Qualcomm Technologies’ connectivity chips include RFFE content from the company. In addition, Qualcomm RFFE is increasingly being adopted in consumer IoT devices, such as wearables.

Wi-Fi RFFE modules bring together key components required between the Wi-Fi baseband chip and antennas to amplify and adapt signals for optimal wireless transmission. Manufacturers use these modules to quickly and cost-effectively develop Wi-Fi client devices. The new modules announced today feature 5G/Wi-Fi coexistence capabilities, and complement Qualcomm ultraBAW filters to allow 5G/Wi-Fi concurrency, enhancing wireless performance in cellular devices.

Manufacturers can use the new modules along with Qualcomm Technologies’ client connectivity products, such as Qualcomm® FastConnect™ 7800 Wi-Fi 7/Bluetooth Systems and Snapdragon® 5G Modem-RF Systems – for cutting-edge wireless such as those devices featuring Snapdragon® Connect. Or they can use 3rd party Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chipsets along with the modules.

The new front end modules are currently sampling to customers. Commercial devices featuring the new solutions are expected to launch by the second half of 2022.

David McQueen, research director at global technology intelligence firm ABI Research says, “These new Wi-Fi 7 FEMs have been co-designed using Qualcomm’s recently announced ultraBAW filter technology, which allows spectrum access up to 7 GHz, and enables implementation of the company’s Wi-Fi 7 feature High Band Simultaneous Multi-Link.

“The expansion of Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz band and the emergence of the new Wi-Fi 7 standard are causing unprecedented technology complexity and challenges in the way the radio is designed and implemented. These challenges are very similar in nature to those encountered by the cellular industry when migrating to LTE Advanced Pro and 5G, which has pushed many smartphone OEMs to delegate their RF system design to Qualcomm. In a similar fashion, creating high-performance Wi-Fi modems will not be enough to differentiate in the Wi-Fi 7 market if this is not aligned with strong radio designs using cutting-edge RFFE components,” McQueen adds.

“This is where Qualcomm’s latest offerings are brought into stark relief, building on the company’s expertise and know-how through offering end-to-end cellular connectivity solutions from the antenna to the modem. With these new Wi-Fi FEMs, Qualcomm has put itself in a prime position to leverage this expertise in the increasingly complex Wi-Fi technology landscape, to address new market opportunities beyond smartphones and support both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity across multiple markets. Not only will the new FEM solutions enable Qualcomm to raise competitive barriers to its rivals in the Wi-Fi 7 market, but the company could also generate scale for these solutions, offering them at competitive price points in both cellular and Wi-Fi markets.”

McQueen concludes, “While Qualcomm’s latest modules can be used with third party Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modem chipsets, there is industry conflict between those companies that provide RFFE components in close collaboration with others to offer total systems, such as Murata and Qorvo, and those that have end-to-end designs, Broadcom for example. The companies that win out and gain industry support will need to demonstrate that their solution is able to improve performance, reduce time-to-market, lower overall costs, and allow flexibility and customisation. Such metrics will become ever-more important for end-device differentiation notably as the battleground extends into markets beyond smartphones.”

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