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In the era of Internet of everything, RF front-end becomes more and more important

At present, it has become necessary to use mobile phones to surf the Internet through wireless networks. Video calls, online shopping, mobile payment and so on are inseparable from wireless networks. And “4G/5G when going out, Wi-Fi at home” has become a public consensus.


Radio Frequency Front End: The “Hero” behind Wireless Communication


The wireless communication module of a mobile phone consists of four parts: antenna, RF front end, RF transceiver and baseband. Among them, the RF front end is an important part of the mobile phone wireless communication module, whether through Wi-Fi or 4G/5G Internet access, to achieve smooth network connection is inseparable from the RF front end.


The RF FRONT-END is a set of RF components between the modem and the terminal antenna, affecting and managing all signals sent and received by the terminal. Without an RF front end, people’s phones would not work.


From the perspective of market development space, with the upgrade of 4G to 5G and the evolution of Wi-Fi from 802.11ac(Wi-Fi 5) to 802.11ax(Wi-Fi 6) standard, the demand for radio frequency front-end modules of wireless communication has increased significantly, and the global radio frequency front-end market will usher in a large-scale expansion in the future. In addition, the acceleration of 5G network deployment and the popularity of 5G smartphones will also drive the rapid growth of the global RF front-end market. Gartner forecasts that the RF front-end market will reach US $21 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 8.3% from 2019 to 2026.


In cellular networks, the RF front-end design of smartphones is further complicated by the exponential increase in RF requirements for 5G. Compared with less than 20 band combinations in the early 4G, 5G has more than 10,000 band combinations, significantly increasing the complexity of the RF front end. In wireless LAN, Wi-Fi 6E standard has introduced the spectrum of 6GHz, Wi-Fi 7 has gradually been known to everyone, Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 7, the emergence of the RF front-end requirements are also constantly increasing. In addition, 4G/5G and Wi-Fi signals must be kept separate, otherwise there is a risk of RF interference. Therefore, the RF front-end must be equipped with advanced filtering technology to avoid the overlapping and mutual interference of RF signals.


In this context, it is critical to provide smartphone manufacturers with a mature modem to antenna solution. As a leader in wireless communications, Qualcomm has introduced multiple generations of complete solutions from modems to antennas. From the number of components, to the variety of features and functions, Qualcomm built it into a complete system. The Wi-Fi RF front-end module incorporates key components needed between the Wi-Fi baseband chip and the antenna, amplifying and adapting signals to support optimal wireless transmission. The above modules can be used by manufacturers to quickly and economically develop Wi-Fi client devices.


This model not only addresses the complexity of the RF front-end, but also brings great value to the end ecosystem by helping end vendors save time on hardware integration and testing, allowing them to focus more on industrial design and user interfaces to build better products for users.


Enable various types of network terminals, expand to more areas


Wireless communications technologies are affecting a growing number of industries, where the pace of digital transformation is accelerating. Since the development of wireless communication technology, its role and value have not only stayed in the field of smart phones, but also entered into all kinds of network terminals, bringing new possibilities for wearable devices, extended reality (XR), industrial Internet of things, enterprise private network and other fields, enabling thousands of industries.


Take 5G as an example. By the end of May 2022, 5G applications had covered 40 categories of the national economy, and had been widely used in more than 200 smart mines, more than 1,000 smart factories, more than 180 smart power grids, 89 ports, and more than 600 Classⅲ Grade A hospitals nationwide. Wi-Fi, for example, is not only connected to smartphones, but also to more connected terminals such as wearable devices.


In the Internet of everything era, the RF front end is also crucial. It is reported that most of the 5G cars, 5G fixed wireless access CPE and 5G PCS with Qualcomm connectivity chips that have been released or are under development use Qualcomm RF front-end technology or components.


Qualcomm’s new RF front-end modules for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6E, and next-generation standard Wi-Fi 7 have caught the industry’s attention. The module is applicable to a wide range of end categories in addition to smartphones, including automobiles, Extended reality (XR), PCS, wearables, mobile broadband, and the Internet of Things. With the new products, Qualcomm extends its leadership in RF front-end technology to the automotive and Internet of Things sectors, helping Oems address the current challenges facing the industry, such as high development costs and poor scalability. Oems using Qualcomm solutions can design products with higher performance, longer battery life, and faster commercial launch, accelerating the pace of innovation and delivering a better experience to consumers.


It is worth mentioning that the new RF front-end module launched by Qualcomm supports the coexistence of 5G and Wi-Fi, and the combination with Qualcomm ultraBA filter can support 5G/Wi-Fi concurrency, enhancing the wireless connection performance of using cellular network terminals.


Not only the RF front end, but also the product mix brings a better experience


Qualcomm not only has RF front-end modules, but also advanced products such as Snapdragon X70 5G modem, RF system, FastConnect 7800, and third-generation Qualcomm Professional networking platform. Manufacturers can use the new modules as well as Qualcomm’s connectivity products to provide advanced wireless capabilities to their terminals, as well as select third-party Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chipsets to be used in conjunction with the modules.


At present, wireless communication technology is in continuous evolution. In the field of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 7 has emerged in the public view. On the basis of Wi-Fi 6, it introduces 320MHz bandwidth, 4K QAM, enhanced MU-MIMO and other technologies, which can support higher data transmission rate and lower delay than Wi-Fi 6.


The end-to-end Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem is essential if you want to enjoy the speed brought by Wi-Fi 7. Also take Qualcomm as an example. On the mobile phone side, Qualcomm has launched FastConnect 7800, which leads the industry with its high frequency multi-connection concurrency technology. This top-tier feature is oriented towards Wi-Fi 7 networks and leverages the huge potential of 5GHz and 6GHz Wi-Fi connections to provide extreme capacity and sustained extremely low latency. Free up highly congested 2.4GHz spectrum for both Bluetooth and low-bandwidth Wi-Fi. Based on high-frequency multi-connection concurrency technology, the FastConnect 7800 supports all multi-connection modes. Users can experience lower latency and less interference by using the increasingly popular 320MHz channel in the 6GHz band, or the 240MHz channel in the globally available 5GHz band, and enjoy jitter free connections and peak speeds.


On the routed network side, Qualcomm has released the third generation of professional networking platform. Relying on the advantages of multi-generation professional networking platform, the third-generation Qualcomm professional networking platform combines the Wi-Fi 7 network features with Qualcomm’s intelligent multi-channel management technology to achieve speed improvement, delay reduction and network utilization improvement for Wi-Fi 6/6E end users. It will also bring transformational ultra-high throughput and unmatched low latency to the next generation of Wi-Fi 7 terminals. By introducing innovative Wi-Fi 7 technologies such as multi-connection concurrent operations, 4K QAM modulation technology, and four-band configuration in a highly scalable and modular optimized architecture, the third-generation Qualcomm Professional Networking platform sets a new industry benchmark for network connectivity solutions, bringing maximum physical layer (PHY) rates of 33Gbit/s to systems.


Based on the end-to-end Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem formed by Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 mobile connection system and the third-generation professional networking platform, manufacturers can create multiple categories of products to allow users to enjoy advanced Wi-Fi 7 connection experience.


In the Internet of Everything era, the combination of RF front-end module and FastConnect 7800, third-generation Qualcomm professional networking platform will bring the ultimate flexibility to global operators, support them to maximize the use of spectrum resources, and provide the best network connectivity for consumers and enterprises.


With its leading RF front-end performance and product layout covering the entire category, Qualcomm’s cumulative RF front-end unit shipments reached 8 billion units in 2021. Qualcomm has expanded its leading edge from modems to antennas and comprehensive RF front-end technology portfolio to more fields such as automobiles and the Internet of Things, which not only promotes the continuous growth of its RF front-end business, but also brings infinite possibilities to the Internet of Everything era.