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Qualcomm X35 Targets Mainstream 5G and 4G Cellular IoT

by Chris Taylor | Feb 08, 2023

The X35 could disrupt Wi-Fi and UWB, not just 4G markets.

Qualcomm just announced the Snapdragon X35 modem-RF system, a new 5G radio chipset and optional RF FE with entry-level broadband capabilities. The X35 “enables OEMS to create compact devices . . . with 5G” and helps operators achieve “faster migration [to 5G]” to quote the company.

The first 5G chipset to support NR Lite as outlined under LTE Rel. 17, the X35 offers:

  • Lower complexity, lower power consumption, and smaller footprint than earlier 5G chipsets that target eMBB devices such as flagship and premium-tier smartphones.
  • Global band support.
  • Ultra-low latency but lower peak data rates than previous 5G chipsets.
  • Precise positioning with centimeter level accuracy using 5G and dual GNSS.

The X35 brings down the cost, power consumption, and footprint of 5G radios and aims squarely at LTE Cat. 4 (150 Mbps DL) to LTE Cat. 6 (300 Mbps DL) devices:

  •  The X35 supports peak data rates of 220 Mbps DL / 100 Mbps UL.
  • The X35 has less than half the power consumption of the MDM9207 (LTE Cat. 1 with 10 Mbps /5 Mbps UL/DL), a popular cellular modem for 4G M2M, and even lower power consumption than the LTE Cat. 4 and LTE Cat. 6 modems that the X35 will compete with most directly.
  • The X35 uses up to 20 MHz channel bandwidths like LTE, allowing reuse of 4G spectrum for 5G with less need for carrier aggregation. This will make deployment of private 5G networks easier and more cost effective for universities, companies, and municipalities using devices equipped with the X35.

The X35 has limited applications processing capabilities and lacks support for high-end smartphone features like HD cameras and displays, instead targeting connected edge devices in agriculture, construction, mining, education, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail such as:

  • Robots.
  • Retail point-of-sale terminals.
  • Wind turbine monitoring and control.
  • Automated farm equipment.
  • Health monitoring equipment.
  • Games consoles.
  • Surveillance cameras.
  • Tablets.
  • … to name just a few ...


Qualcomm’s X35 will cannibalize the company’s successful 4G platforms and will also put pressure on 4G competitors to accelerate development of their own 5G chipsets if they wish to remain in the cellular chip market.  While the X35 does not compete directly with low rate 4G platforms such as those from Sequans and Sony (Altair) supporting LTE Cat. M1 and NB-IoT, the X35 will accelerate the move of LTE Cat. 4 to Cat. 6 devices such as surveillance cameras and mobile routers for truck fleets to 5G.  The X35 promises to not only displace 4G but should expand the use of cellular in IoT applications.

The X35 will also compete with Wi-Fi. 5G has a pairing advantage over Wi-Fi, which despite industry standardization efforts, still requires cumbersome SSID and password setup for most devices especially when roaming among different Wi-Fi networks. For this reason alone, companies fielding high-value and outdoor devices will have an incentive to opt for 5G networking rather than Wi-Fi.  Not only are 5G devices easier to set up and use, the security and quality of service usually exceeds Wi-Fi.

The precision location capabilities of 5G under Rel. 17 raises an interesting question. Will 5G displace UWB, now available in many flagship smartphone models?  UWB can help find a device or tag to within about 10 centimeters, while 5G Rel. 17 can locate an object within about a meter outdoors and 5 meters indoors.  5G will suffice for many of today’s UWB applications such as locating your lost airport luggage, while users might still prefer UWB for secure entry such as automotive PKE.  In any case, the ubiquity of 5G devices supporting 3GPP Rel. 17 (and above) will mean wider use of precision location applications by both consumers and companies.

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