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5G Tech Is Great but Legacy Systems Won’t Migrate Easily. Or Will They?

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How will industrial IoT developers migrate from existing LTE to 5G?

If there is one prominent theme in today’s chip design, it is that of tightly integrated frontend-to-backend systems. A recent 5G announcement highlights this trend in the expanding wireless IoT space.

The drive toward the integration of functions, components, and features is also supported by Makimoto’s wave. Since approximately 2017, the chip design and EDA tools market has been in the customization portion of the Makimoto Wave pendulum, where highly customized electronic content is dominant.

The latest manifestation of packing more components into one chip package comes with the announcement of Qualcomm’s new 315 5G IoT Modem, for example, designed for Industrial IoT applications such as energy, manufacturing, construction, mining, and precision agriculture.

The modem-to-antenna integrated hardware chip is designed to support the IoT ecosystem in building upgradeable LTE and 5G devices for IoT vertical markets. This move will accelerate the adoption of 5G connectivity for IoT and expand the overall opportunity for 5G in the IoT industry.

Basically, this chip package will allow developers to support existing LTE while updating existing IoT systems with super-fast, low power, and low latency 5G wireless technology.  Further, the reduced footprint and highly integrated RF front-end of the chip provide a pin-to-pin compatible solution for current LTE legacy chips. This provides legacy modules with the ability to upgrade with no changes needed to existing hardware, minimizing development efforts, costs and providing a good transition from LTE to 5G. 

The integrated RF-to-modem chip supports 5G NR sub-6GHz bands and operates in standalone-only mode with the capability to switch to LTE as needed. It can be used in private or public 5G networks, using networking slicing or in isolation. It can also be integrated with existing ethernet and wired tech.

5G high-band data will deliver more bytes than before, with spectrum blocks that are 200 MHz or larger. These larger blocks will enable operators to carry significantly more traffic in a single channel, at higher speeds, and in support of many more wireless devices.

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High-band wireless spectrum.

According to the corporate announcement, Qualcomm’s 315 5G IoT modem is expected to be commercially available in the second half of 2021. 

Judging from the customer list provided in the press release, numerous market segments see the benefit in the integrated, legacy-to-5G modem chip. For example, interested parties in the automotive and system spaces included Bosch, Telit, Schneider Electric, and Siemens. Companies making embedded devices included MeiG, HMS, Fibocom, and Quectel.

This new modem from Qualcomm promises to accelerate the digital transformation of the 5G IIoT industry, thus proliferating 5G for IoT in general.

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Qualcomm’s legacy to 5G IoT modem.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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