Qualcomm announced a new 5G modem, the Snapdragon X60. This modem allows the use of two 5G modes (Sub-6 GHz and mmWave). In theory it has a maximum download speed of 7.5 Gbps and is built on a 5nm manufacturing process.
If that sounds like something from the distant future, well,! Qualcomm likes to advertise well in advance. The X55 modem that already lives inside some smartphones on the market was announced in February 2019, so this X60 modem should be made official at Qualcomm's event at the end of the year and reach the devices in early 2021.
The full name of this chip is "Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System", which means that Qualcomm wants you to buy its X60 modem and separately the RF antenna modules together, as they are designed as one big package.
Since the 5G mmWave has poor signal characteristics (it can be blocked by just about anything, including the hand), Qualcomm's designs place multiple mmWave antenna modules across the entire body of the device.
Paired with the X60 is Qualcomm's new QTM535 antenna module, which Qualcomm says is smaller than the current QTM525, although the company does not say how much smaller it really is.
Qualcomm's strategy of creating "modem RF systems" for 5G, something the European Union is now investigating for antitrust issues. The EU is concerned that Qualcomm is using its position in the 5G modem market to try to dominate the RF chip market, blocking competitors such as Broadcom (which tried to buy Qualcomm), Skyworks and Qorvo.
The maximum theoretical speeds of the X60 at 7.5 Gbps for download and 3Gbps upload are not really faster than the X55, but today's 5G networks are nowhere near that kind of bandwidth.
Qualcomm seems mainly focused on reducing its components, and in this area, the 5nm modem would be an update on the 7nm manufacturing process that Qualcomm currently uses.
Samsung has won a contract to produce these modems and can also share production with TSMC. That means it is probably also a safe bet that Qualcomm's flagship for 2021 will be built in a 5nm process, after spending two generations being created at 7nm.
The 5G is divided into two parts of the spectrum: the slower sub-6GHz 5G, but with greater range, and the mmWave 5G, which is faster, but of shorter range. The X60 introduces the ability to use both signals at the same time, as long as you find somewhere on the planet where you will have access to both signals.
The X60 also adds the ability to perform voice over the 5G signal, an addition that in itself can prepare devices to abandon LTE and only use 5G, but that will have a few years to go.
As an independent modem, perhaps the company is targeting Apple, which is rumored to be integrating Qualcomm 5G modems into the next iPhones. Now wait and wait when the company officially launches the new modem and what will be the first smartphone to use it.