Qualcomm Technologies

Qualcomm expands its RF front end with range of Wi-Fi 7 front-end modules

Mobile chip giant aims to take business beyond smartphones with launch of next-gen Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radio frequency front-end modules that are claimed to offer superior wireless performance in automotive and internet-connected devices

As Wi-Fi expands into the 6GHz band and the new Wi-Fi 7 standard develops, and unprecedented technology complexity and challenges are emerging in the way signals are implemented, Qualcomm Technologies has announced that it is building on its existing roadmap and market position in RF front end (RFFE) for handsets to extend its expertise into new device categories.

Aimed to enhance Bluetooth and Wi-Fi experiences, the expanded portfolio is designed for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6E and the next-generation Wi-Fi 7 standard for which Qualcomm announced a new product line in May 2022. The modules are designed for a wide array of device segments beyond smartphones – including automotive, extended reality (XR), PCs, wearables, mobile broadband and the internet of things (IoT), among others.

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, and 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.

The introduction of the RFFE modules aligns with the company’s objective to extend its handset range with modem-to-antenna solutions into automotive and IoT, thus positioning Qualcomm Technologies to be a global RFFE revenue leader across various industries.

Qualcomm noted that 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 also being increasingly adopted in consumer IoT devices, such as wearables.

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, and also devices featuring Snapdragon Connect. They can also use third-party Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chipsets along with the modules.

“With Qualcomm Technologies’ new products, we are extending our RFFE leadership into automotive and IoT, helping OEMs address their massive industry-specific challenges like development cost and scalability,” said Christian Block, senior vice-president and general manager, RFFE, at Qualcomm Germany RFFE.

“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.”

David McQueen, research director at global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, added: “The expansion of Wi-Fi into the 6GHz 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. 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.

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 device differentiation as the battleground extends into markets beyond smartphones.

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

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