Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

5G adoption is in full swing, with sub-6 GHz and millimeter-wave (mmWave) becoming a bigger area of support in 5G modems. Over the past year, many chipmakers have focused ON using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve 5G performance, such as optimizing sub-6-GHz and mmWave 5G links and using adaptive antenna tuning, as well as improving image and video processing.

The higher bandwidth, lower latency, and higher reliability of 5G mobile networks are also driving requirements for higher-performance and higher-efficiency devices and modules. This puts a greater emphasis on power-saving techniques and designs and the need to simplify implementation.

Chipmakers are also developing highly integrated solutions that support all 5G bands. This helps simplify implementation while addressing size and cost issues.

Here are the top 10 5G SoCs, modules, and platforms introduced over the past year that address these challenges, in alphabetical order by company. Applications include smartphones, cellular infrastructure, massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) base stations, and connected cars.

Analog Devices Inc.: RadioVerse SoC

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

ADI’s ADRV9040 RadioVerse SoC. Click for a larger image.(Source: Analog Devices Inc.)

Analog Devices Inc. has designed its new RadioVerse system-on-chip (SoC) series to develop energy-efficient 5G radio units (RUs) with improved performance thanks to advanced RF signal processing with expanded digital functionality and RF capacity. These devices target software-defined transceivers in 4G and 5G RUs worldwide. ADI said this expanded signal processing can eliminate the need for an FPGA, which reduces thermal footprint and total system size, weight, power, and cost.

The SoCs are also the newest addition to ADI’s RadioVerse ecosystem, leveraging its Zero IF (ZiF) radio architecture with significant advances in functional integration and linearization. The ZiF architecture is said to simplify RF filtering and signal chain components, reducing RU cost and development time for band and power variant designs.

Energy efficiency is a key metric for operators as they reduce their carbon footprint while expanding network capacity, said ADI, and the RadioVerse SoC series requires very low power compared with alternatives and uses advanced algorithms for optimal RU system efficiency.

The ADRV9040 is the first in the new RadioVerse SoC series. It offers eight transmit and receive channels of 400-MHz bandwidth and integrates advanced digital-signal–processing functions, including carrier digital up-converters (CDUCs), carrier digital down-converters (CDDCs), crest factor reduction (CFR), and digital predistortion (DPD).

The SoC’s DPD algorithms were developed using advanced ML techniques and are optimized in collaboration with major power-Amplifier (PA) vendors. The algorithms are tested and validated across 4G and 5G use cases, including various PA technology types like gallium nitride (GaN).

MediaTek Inc.: Dimensity 1050 mmWave SoC

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

MediaTek’s Dimensity 1050 mmWave SoC. Click for a larger image. (Source: MediaTek Inc.)

Building on its Dimensity portfolio, MediaTek introduced the Dimensity 1050 SoC earlier this year for 5G smartphones. The SoC integrates two premium ARM Cortex-A78 CPUs with speeds reaching 2.5 GHz and the latest ARM Mali-G610 graphics engine.

The mmWave 5G chipset delivers dual connectivity using mmWave and sub-6 GHz and is built on an ultra-efficient TSMC 6-nm production process with an octa-core CPU. Supporting 3CC carrier aggregation on the sub-6-GHz (FR1) spectrum and 4CC carrier aggregation on the mmWave (FR2) spectrum, the Dimensity 1050 can deliver up to 53% faster speeds and greater reach to smartphones compared with LTE + mmWave aggregation, said MediaTek.

The Dimensity 1050 also offers Wi-Fi optimizations together with MediaTek’s HyperEngine 5.0 gaming technology to ensure lower-latency connections with the new tri-band — 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 6 GHz — that extends game time and performance, said the company. HyperEngine 5.0 optimizes CPU and GPU resources to improve power efficiency when gaming.

The 5G SoC supports high-end UFS 3.1 storage and LPDDR5 memory for ultra-fast data streams. It also features a dual HDR video capture engine to simultaneously stream with the front and rear cameras, “excellent” noise reduction for low-light photos, and MediaTek’s APU 550 for improved AI camera actions. Other features include Wi-Fi 6E support, a 2 × 2 MIMO antenna, and support for True Dual 5G SIM (5G SA + 5G SA) and Dual VoNR.

MediaTek Inc.: T830 platform for 5G CPE devices

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

MediaTek’s T830 platform. Click for a larger image. (Source: MediaTek Inc.)

MediaTek’s most recent addition to the 5G portfolio targets 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) routers and mobile hotspot customer-premise equipment (CPE). The T830 platform features an integrated 5G modem with sub-6-GHz connectivity, a quad-core CPU, hardware-based network acceleration engine, and options of Wi-Fi 6/6E/7.

The T830 platform, supporting 5G speeds up to 7 Gbits/s on sub-6-GHz networks, includes a main SoC with a 3GPP Release 16 5G cellular modem integrated with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A55 CPU, a sub-6-GHz RF transceiver, a GNSS receiver, and power management ICs (PMICs). It also integrates a 3D GPU with a display driver.

The main SoC includes a built-in network processing unit (NPU) and Wi-Fi offload engine to support multi-gigabit routing speeds between 5G cellular to Ethernet or Wi-Fi, without using the CPU. This offers speed and power-efficiency benefits, said the company.

The built-in MediaTek M80 modem supports advanced Release 16 capabilities for sub-6-GHz band operations and integrates MediaTek’s 5G UltraSave technologies for energy efficiency in all 5G connection conditions. Cellular capabilities include 5G nonstandalone (NSA)/standalone (SA) support, with sub-6-GHz connections up to 4CC-CA plus mixed duplex FDD/TDD support.

The platform also supports dual 5G SIM (DSDS), depending on requirements. Peripheral connectivity includes 3 × PCI-Express root complex controllers, USB 3.2, 2 × 10-GbE USXGMII interfaces, and a variety of PCM/SPI interfaces for RJ11 phone lines. It supports RDK-B, prplOS, and OpenSync to meet with Tier 1 operators’ open OS framework specifications.

NXP Semiconductors: RX FEMs and pre-drivers

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

NXP’s 5G mMIMO solutions. Click for a larger image. (Source: NXP Semiconductors)

Aimed at massive MIMO systems expanding in base station designs, NXP’s new BTS7202 RX front-end modules (FEMs) and BTS6403/6305 pre-drivers help improve 5G call quality and network coverage.

The BTS7202 RX FEMs and BTS6403/6305 pre-drivers improve 5G call quality and network coverage thanks to their higher output power, improved linearity, and reduced noise, said the company. The higher-power BTS7202 and BTS6403/6305 5G solutions, built on NXP’s silicon germanium (SiGe) process, also offer “modest” current consumption to reduce operational costs for mobile network operators (MNOs), said NXP.

The BTS7202 and BTS6403/6305 for 5G base stations complement NXP’s PA solutions for 32T32R radios. “MNOs are increasingly leveraging 32T32R solutions to improve massive MIMO coverage in less dense urban and suburban areas,” said NXP. “Utilizing 32T32R solutions requires using higher-power devices that increase the power level per channel in order to achieve the total power required to ensure strong coverage of the 5G signal.”

NXP recently launched a new family of RF power transistors for 32T32R active antenna systems, using its latest GaN technology. The new 32T32R discrete solutions are reported to deliver twice the power in the same package as 64T64R solutions, resulting in smaller and lighter 5G radios.

The dual-receiver BTS7202 RX FEMs feature two independent receive channels, each with a low-noise amplifier and a switch capable of handling up to 20 W. Other key specs include an operating frequency range of 3.3–4.2 GHz, 500-mW power dissipation per channel, a typical noise figure of 0.95 dBm (10.5-dB PAPR), and matching to 50 Ω. The BTS7202U, housed in a HVQFN40 package, measures 6 × 6 × 0.85 mm.

The BTS6403/6305 pre-drivers offer fast on/off switching to support TDD systems. Key specs include a frequency range of 2.4–4.2 GHz, 5-V single supply, and quiescent current of 68 mA (BTS6403) and 80 mA (BTS6305). The BTS6305 also integrates a balun to reduce costs, said NXP. The pre-drivers are housed in a 3 × 3 × 0.85-mm 16-terminal HVQFN package.

Point2 Technology Inc.: 5G RangeXtender2 module

Point2 has introduced a new reference design for its RangeXtender2 module with a new SoC that enables a 40-km reach for 5G, edge, and cloud networks. By increasing the range of existing fiber transmission paths, RangeXtender2 can reduce the total cost of ownership for 5G network connectivity deployments by up to 25%, according to the company.

The module, featuring a new Pam4/NRZ SoC, enables the extended range of 5G fronthaul/backhaul networks by cutting data frequency in half while maintaining full signal quality and legacy compatibility through the NRZ mode for the host-side interface, said the company. Capable of speed-switching between PAM4 and NRZ modes, a single SoC can support multiple lines of module products (including PAM4, NRZ, and DWDM) and is tunable to address a variety of network requirements globally.

“The RangeXtender2 module converts electrical NRZ modulation to optical PAM-4 modulation, which has half the data frequency [12.5 Gbaud] compared with NRZ [25 Gbaud],” said Point2. “This half-rate optical PAM4 mode is more immune to optical dispersion and can reduce module cost by enabling developers to use existing 10G components.”

The SoC also integrates Point2’s proprietary electronic dispersion compensation (EDC) engine technology, which combines two lanes of bidirectional clock-and-data recovery (CDR) and EDC with a CDR/retimer. Point2 said this approach minimizes distortion caused by dispersion, reduces bit-error rates, and simplifies integration into SFP28 module products.

Other features include an analog EDC filter that compensates for directly modulated laser (DML) chirp dispersion, which is reported to reduce transmitter optical subassembly (TOSA) cost, and a Linear receiver optical subassembly (ROSA).

The new SoC offers two different modes of operation: 25-Gbits/s NRZ-EDC mode and 25-Gbits/s NRZ (25 Gbaud)-to-PAM4 (12.5 Gbaud) mode. The NRZ-to-PAM4 mode offers the benefit of using 10-Gbits/s TOSA/ROSA for 25-Gbits/s transmission and longer reach (up to 40 km), said Point2, and the NRZ-EDC mode provides more link budget margins (10 dB) than the NRZ-to-PAM4 mode.

The RangeXtender2 module reference design currently supports 25-Gbits/s solutions with a roadmap to deliver up to 100 Gbits/s for future access networks. The new PAM4/NRZ SoC is sampling now with the RangeXtender2 reference design. Production is expected in Q2 2023.

Qualcomm Technologies Inc.: Snapdragon X70

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X70. Click for a larger image. (Source: Qualcomm Technologies Inc.)

Qualcomm Technologies Inc. has again upgraded its Modem-RF systems, unveiling its much smarter fifth-generation modem-to-antenna 5G solution at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022. The new Snapdragon X70 is said to offer the first 5G AI processor in a modem-RF system, delivering 10-Gbit 5G downloads, 3.5-Gbits/s peak uploads, low latency, wide coverage, and high power efficiency.

The Snapdragon X70 builds on the previous X65, X60, X55, and X50 solutions, supporting all commercial 5G bands from 600 MHz to 41 GHz while maintaining the 10-Gbit 5G peak download speed of its predecessor. It also provides an upgradeable architecture for fast commercialization of 5G Release 16 through software updates.

Qualcomm believes AI will help deliver breakthrough real-world 5G performance, and with the introduction of the Qualcomm 5G AI suite, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Modem-RF system got a lot smarter, improving speeds, coverage, latency, mobility, link robustness, and power efficiency. Designed for AI-powered optimization of sub-6-GHz and mmWave 5G links, the 5G AI suite includes AI-based channel-state feedback and dynamic optimization, AI-based network selection for improved mobility and link robustness, and the first AI-based mmWave beam management for greater mobility and coverage.

The suite also features AI-based adaptive antenna tuning for up to 30% improved context detection for higher average speeds and coverage, said Qualcomm. It dynamically optimizes transmit and receive paths across different user scenarios and signal conditions to reduce power consumption and extend battery life.

The Snapdragon X70 also debuts the new Qualcomm 5G PowerSave Gen 3, coupled with a 4-nm baseband process and advanced Modem-RF technologies like Qualcomm QET7100 Wideband Envelope Tracking for greater power savings. The 5G PowerSave Gen 3 delivers up to 60% improved power efficiency compared with configurations with it disabled, according to Qualcomm.

Another advanced capability includes the Qualcomm 5G Ultra-Low Latency Suite, which allows OEMs and operators to minimize latency for hyper-responsive 5G user experiences and applications, said the company.

The Modem-RF system also claims the first 4 × downlink carrier aggregation across TDD and FDD, mmWave–sub-6-GHz aggregation. Other features include uplink carrier aggregation and switched uplink support across TDD and FDD, a global 5G multi-SIM including Dual-SIM Dual-Active (DSDA) and mmWave support, and SA mmWave support, which allows MNOs and service providers to deploy services like FWA and enterprise 5G without needing sub-6-GHz spectrum, said Qualcomm.

Qualcomm Technologies Inc.: Robotics RB6 platform

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

Qualcomm’s Robotics RB6 platform. Click for a larger image.(Source: Qualcomm Technologies Inc.)

At Qualcomm’s annual 5G Summit event, the company unveiled its plans for 5G and edge AI robotics solutions with the launch of the Qualcomm Robotics RB6 platform and the Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design. Target applications include AMRs, delivery robots, automated manufacturing robots, collaborative robots, UAM aircrafts, industrial drone infrastructure, and autonomous defense solutions.

Combining the Qualcomm AI Engine and 5G capabilities, the new solution supports global sub-6-GHz and mmWave bands in mainstream, enterprise, and private networks. It provides a flexible architecture with expansion cards to support evolving connectivity features, which will enable the Qualcomm Robotics RB6 platform to support 3GPP Release 15 and Releases 16, 17, and 18 features as cards become available in the future.

The platform delivers edge AI and video-processing capabilities through the enhanced Qualcomm AI Engine, with support for 70–200 trillion-operations-per-second (TOPS) (INT8). It supports 12 cameras via D-PHY and 18 cameras via C-PHY (seven concurrent), as well as AI processing with up to 24 simultaneous 1080p video streams.

Other key features include a Qualcomm Kryo 585 CPU and Qualcomm Spectra 480 image signal processor (ISP) that can process 2 gigapixels per second with high-performance capture of 200-megapixel (MP) photos, 8K video recording, and 4K HDR video capture. It also includes the Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit (SPU), which supports hardware root of trust, Qualcomm Trusted Execution Environment, secure boot, and camera security.

The robotics platform provides an extensive set of hardware and software development tools that are customizable. The Qualcomm Intelligent Multimedia SDK combines multimedia, AI and ML, computer vision, and networking building blocks to support end-to-end deployment of robotic applications, said the company.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.: Exynos 2200

Top 10 5G chips, modules, and platforms

Samsung’s Exynos 2200. Click for a larger image. (Source: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.)

Expanding its Exynos premium mobile processor portfolio, Samsung has released the Exynos 2200 with hardware-accelerated ray tracing (RT) and ARM-based processing technology. The new mobile processor also features an AMD RDNA 2 architecture-based Samsung Xclipse graphics processing unit (GPU) and an upgraded NPU, all designed to improve the mobile phone gaming experience.

Samsung said the mobile processor is the industry’s first with hardware-accelerated RT, which delivers realistic lighting effects for graphically rendered scenes. The company calls the Xclipse GPU “a one-of-a-kind hybrid graphic processor that is positioned between the console and the mobile graphic processor.”

The Xclipse GPU integrates advanced graphics like hardware-accelerated RT and variable rate shading (VRS) that were previously available only on PCs, laptops, and consoles, said the company. The Xclipse GPU is the first of multiple planned generations of AMD RDNA graphics in Exynos SoCs.

VRS is a technique that optimizes GPU workload by allowing developers to use a lower shading rate in areas where overall quality will not be affected, which improves frame rate for smoother gameplay, said Samsung.

The Exynos 2200 integrates ARM’s latest ARMv9 CPU cores with improved security and performance. The octa-core CPU is designed in a tri-cluster structure, consisting of a single ARM Cortex-X2 flagship core, three Cortex-A710 big cores, and four Cortex-A510 little cores.

The mobile processor offers more powerful on-device AI with an upgraded NPU, which offers double the performance of its predecessor. The NPU offers much higher precision with FP16 (16-bit floating-point) support in addition to the power-efficient INT8 (8-bit integer) and INT16, said Samsung.

The Exynos 2200 integrates a fast 3GPP Release 16 5G modem supporting both sub-6-GHz and mmWave spectrum bands. The modem can deliver speeds up to 10 Gbits/s with E-UTRAN New Radio — Dual Connectivity (EN-DC), which uses both 4G LTE and 5G NR signals.

The Exynos 2200 also incorporates a redesigned ISP architecture to support the latest image sensors for ultra-high resolution of up to 200 MP. At 30 frames per second (fps), the ISP supports up to 108 MP in single-camera mode and 64 + 36 MP in dual-camera mode. It can also connect up to seven individual image sensors and drive four concurrently for advanced multi-camera setups. The ISP supports up to 4K HDR (or 8K) resolution for video recording.

In addition, the ISP with the NPU uses an advanced content-aware AI camera for more refined and realistic results, applying optimal settings for things like color, white balance, exposure, and dynamic range for higher-quality images.

The mobile processor’s advanced multi-format codec (MFC) decodes videos up to 4K at 240 fps or 8K at 60 fps and encodes up to 4K at 120 fps or 8K at 30 fps. The MFC integrates a power-efficient AV1 decoder that delivers longer playback time. The advanced display solution features HDR10+ and offers refresh rates of up to 144 Hz.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.: Exynos Auto T5123

Bringing 5G connectivity to vehicles is Samsung’s Exynos Auto T5123, a 3GPP Release 15 telematics control unit specifically designed for 5G connectivity in both SA and NSA mode for connected cars. It provides critical information to the vehicle in real time via high-speed download of up to 5.1 Gbits/s, enabling new services like high-definition content streaming and video calls on the go.

The unit comes with two Cortex-A55 CPU cores and a built-in GNSS to minimize the use of external ICs and help reduce product development time, said Samsung.

The Exynos Auto T5123 supports a high-speed PCI Express (PCIe) interface and a low-power, high-performance LPDDR4x mobile DRAM to efficiently process large amounts of data transmitted and received through the 5G modem.

The T5123 is AEC-Q100–qualified. The Exynos Auto T5123 is currently in mass production.

Skyworks Solutions Inc.: 5G timing solutions

Skyworks has unveiled a new portfolio of timing- and network-synchronization solutions for 5G NR and O-RAN fronthaul networks. These include the Si551x and Si540x families of NetSync clock IC devices and AccuTime IEEE 1588 software.

Accurate time synchronization is critical to ultra-reliable network operation and is paving the way for future advances, including ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and coordinated multipoint access (CoMP) for 5G, to support emerging applications like autonomous vehicles, factory automation, and telemedicine, said Skyworks.

The Si551x and Si540x timing solutions comply with relevant telecom standards, including ITU-T G.826x/G.827x, IEEE 1588-2008/2019, and O-RAN WG4.

The new Si551x devices, consisting of the Si5518 and the Si5512 low-phase-noise–jitter network-synchronizer clocks, combine the functions of network synchronization, jitter attenuation, and JESD204B/C clocking in a single device. Both devices incorporate Skyworks’ fifth-generation ultra-low–jitter DSPLL architecture with MultiSynch “any frequency” clock synthesis, which allows the combination of multiple clock and synchronization functions in a single device. This results in lower power consumption and board space savings.

The Si540x series is optimized for equipment in the fronthaul network, such as distribution units and fronthaul switches and gateways. The Si5401, Si5402, and Si5403 network-synchronizer clocks with DSPLL provide network synchronization and synchronous Ethernet/SDH clock-wander filtering.

The new AccuTime IEEE 1588 software, compatible with the Si551x and Si540x products, is designed to deliver a complete IEEE 1588 software implementation and flexible Precision Time Protocol (PTP) solution. The software supports time-recovery performance to meet the requirements of fronthaul network deployments using full (FTS), partial (PTS), or assisted partial (APTS) timing support.

The Si551x and Si540x timing solutions are in production. Samples and evaluation kits (Si55xx-A-EVB and Si540x-A-EVB) are available now.

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