Qualcomm is evolving its Snapdragon chipsets to accommodate the next iteration of 5G devices. The company’s Snapdragon X35 is a 5G NR-Light modem intended to be used in a new wave of 5G devices such as smartwatches, XR glasses, health monitors, surveillance cameras and even fixed wireless customer premises equipment (CPEs).

During a media briefing Gautam Sheoran, vice president, product management at Qualcomm, said that 3GPP Release 17, which includes 5G NR-Light, also known as reduced capacity (RedCap), is intended to fill the gap between high-speed mobile broadband devices and narrowband IoT devices. Sheoron said that the Snapdragon X35 is smaller and more cost efficient than other 5G modems and will deliver longer battery life because it has a streamlined design that is more efficient.

Many existing devices in the category intended for NR-Light currently use LTE CAT4 technology. But the Snapdragon X35 is backward compatible to LTE, making it possible for manufacturers to develop devices that will run on both 4G and 5G networks, as well as operate on a wide range of sub-6 GHz spectrum bands. The chipset will only deliver peak data rates of 220 Mbps downstream and 100 Mbps upstream, which is why it is intended for a specific category of 5G devices. 

When asked why device makers should make 5G devices in this category instead of just using 4G, Sheoran said that the Snapdragon X35 requires half the power of most 4G modems and it is intended to future-proof devices as operators migrate more of their traffic to 5G networks. “We expect more spectrum to be allocated for 5G and less for 4G,” he said. “This allows operators to have a product that works on all spectrum.”

Qualcomm said that customers are currently sampling the Snapdragon X35 and commercial devices with the chipset are expected to launch in the first half of 2024.

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