Qualcomm mixes macro, mmWave in small cells to boost range

Beefier antennas purportedly more than doubles range over small cell deployments, said Qualcomm

Hoping to address the range and cost deployment issues that surround outdoor mmWave deployments, Qualcomm on Tuesday announced its Compact Macro 5G RAN Platform. The new tech can boost the range of mmWave deployments by up to 240% while reducing equipment costs by up to 50%, the company claimed. 

Qualcomm explained that the more than doubling of range is compared to small cells designed using its FSM 5G RAN Platform for Small Cells. By doubling the range, operators can reduce the number of cell sites needed to deploy to provide wide area coverage, it said, thus reducing equipment costs.

The solution combines the silicon Qualcomm developed for its small cell FSM 5G RAN platform with a beefier, macro-grade antenna module. The antenna module sports 256 elements and delivers up to 60 decibel-milliwatts (dBm) of peak Equivalent, Isotropically Radiated Power (EIRP) and up to 1 GHz of spectrum, Qualcomm said. 

“mmWave is the new kid in town from a 5G perspective,” said Qualcomm’s Gerardo Giaretta, VP of product management, in a briefing with press and analysts. 

“We are taking the baseband chipset of our small cell portfolio…and that is the baseband part. And the baseband part really drives the number of users that you can connect. Then we are developing brand new antenna modules which are really macro-grade antenna modules,” he said.

The company hopes the combination of power efficiency, size and cost will appeal to mobile operators looking at other macro solutions. Qualcomm expects to deliver samples to customers in the first calendar quarter of 2023, with widespread availability expected in the second half of the year.

Qualcomm met Wall Street analyst consensus, but lowered guidance for its most recently reported earnings in November. Qualcomm warned of a rapid deterioration in demand and an easing of supply chain constraints across the semiconductor industry; both factors have contributed to an elevated channel inventory, the company said. Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, or QCT, remains “the growth engine of the company,” according to Qualcomm president and CEO Cristiano Amon, who also cited the company’s burgeoning automotive efforts, which grew 58% year over year. Amon said during a conference call with analysts that despite some headwinds, the company continues to progress “from a wireless communications company for the mobile industry to a connected processor company for the intelligent edge.”

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