Most of 2019’s biggest 5G news has focused on mobile devices — read: smartphones — while 5G’s potential as a home broadband replacement temporarily faded into the background. Today, Qualcomm is setting the stage for 2020 with the announcement that 34 companies have committed to using the Snapdragon X55 5G modem and RF system in commercial 5G broadband devices that will launch next year.
While the devices carry the unfortunately jargon-packed name 5G FWA CPE — for “fixed wireless access customer-premises equipment” — users can understand the equipment as a cellular replacement for wired cable modems. Instead of relying on fiber or a lower-capacity wire to bring broadband service into a home, the CPE uses a 5G modem with millimeter wave and/or sub-6GHz wireless signaling, each capable of delivering much faster performance than the sub-1Gbps speeds commonly delivered with today’s wired home broadband.
The list of OEMs working on devices includes heavy hitters from across the world, which should help 5G broadband solutions spread quickly across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Some of the better known names include Cradlepoint, Inseego, LG, Linksys, Netgear, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sharp, brands that cover both consumers and businesses. Moreover, Qualcomm expects that the hardware will empower carriers to bring 5G-caliber broadband to underserved regions starting fairly quickly.
Additional companies on the list include brands focused on the enterprise market, as well as customers located largely in China and Taiwan: Arcadyan, Askey, AVM, Casa Systems, Compal, Fibocom, FIH, Franklin, Gemtek, Gongjing, Gosuncn Technology Group, MeiG, Oppo, Quanta, Quectel, Sagemcom, Sercomm, Sierra Wireless, Sunsea, Technicolor, Telit, Wewins, Wingtech, and WNC. One of China’s largest mobile companies, ZTE, rounds out the list.
“The widespread adoption of our modem-to-antenna solution translates into enhanced fixed broadband services and additional opportunities to utilize 5G network infrastructure for broad coverage in urban, suburban and rural environments,” said Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon. “Due to the development ease of our integrated system and industry movement toward self-installed, plug- and-play CPE devices, we expect OEMs will be able to support fixed broadband deployments beginning in 2020.”
Last month, Qualcomm announced a new 5G antenna system for fixed 5G modems, capable of extending the wireless service range of a millimeter wave small cell to roughly 1 mile. The company said that fixed wireless providers will be able to deliver up to 7Gbps download speeds if using 800MHz of millimeter wave spectrum — a substantial quantity that large wireless carriers and cable companies have been working to acquire through private transactions and government auctions.