New Qualcomm chips aim to connect phones to disparate 5G networks

FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is pictured at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

(Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc on Tuesday introduced new chips designed to connect mobile phones to 5G networks that operate differently around the world.

Qualcomm is the world’s biggest supplier of mobile phone chips. The San Diego, California-based company said its new X60 modem chip, along with a new antenna chip, will be the first to aggregate signals sent over the disparate frequencies used in the two variants of 5G networks, a feature the company said will help boost download speeds.

5G communications, which are intended to improve data transfer speeds and connect more devices to the internet, are expected to be in wide use by the end of 2020. Qualcomm has said it believes between 175 million and 225 million 5G smart phones will be sold in 2020.

In many regions, 5G networks use so-called sub-6 frequencies, but in some major markets such as the United States, the networks will also use “millimeter wave” frequencies to deliver faster data speeds in dense areas such as cities.

Qualcomm’s modem chips can handle both variants, and the company said the X60 chip is the first to offer what is called carrier aggregation for both kinds of 5G. Using carrier aggregation, telecommunications companies can send data over multiple bands of wireless spectrum at once to generate faster speeds.

Qualcomm designs chips but has them manufactured by outside partners. The company said the X60 chip will be made using 5-nanometer chip technology, which makes the chips smaller and more power-efficient. Qualcomm did not disclose who would manufacture the chips, but Reuters reported on Tuesday that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd had won the orders.

Qualcomm said it would start sending samples of the chips to its customers in the first quarter of this year and that they would start to show up in premium smart phones in early 2021.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Matthew Lewis