In smartphones, “AI” is often used to enhance the look and quality of your photos. Qualcomm said that it’s going even further, using AI to improve the cellular performance and coverage of your 5G smartphone as well.
Specifically, Qualcomm claims that it’s building AI capabilities into its modems to improve their signal coverage, further refining the range of all the radios connected to the device, including 4G and 5G. The AI technology will be included in the Snapdragon X70 modem that should ship this year and appear in smartphones in 2023.
Qualcomm used the occasion of its 5G Summit to make the announcements, many of which are designed to improve the performance of the short-range, high-speed millimeter-wave (mmWave) technology. 5G wireless technology consists of two technologies working in parallel: sub-6GHz wireless signals, which can cover dozens of miles with throughout of a few hundred megabits per second, and the powerful but limited mmWave, which covers just hundreds of feet at speeds of more than a gigabit per second of throughput. T-Mobile also uses a middle band, splitting the difference.
What most everyone cares about, though, are the big numbers from mmWave, whose real-world scenarios include thousands of people taking photos and movies of an outdoor concert and sharing them on social media. Its limited range, however, means that Qualcomm and carriers alike are trying to improve mmWave’s performance. AI is one answer.
Qualcomm’s senior director of product marketing, Ignacio Contreras, told reporters that AI-based inferencing can extend the range of mmWave by about 20 percent, though the technique can be used to improve other cellular technologies as well.
Essentially, what Qualcomm is doing is teaching the modem what to do before it encounters the scenario in the real world. Cellular phones always “talk” to a cellular tower, reporting conditions and allowing the tower to optimize the transmission of data. The AI-powered modem can then be “trained” before it enters the field. In the real world, the smartphone modem will communicate the current conditions but also what it anticipates the network conditions to be, improving performance for all devices on the system. With mmWave, the phone might know to transition to a new beam if one is available.
“With AI processing integrated into the model of our system, the device is not just able to report the current conditions, but predict what will be the conditions at one instant after,” Contreras added.
At its Summit event, Qualcomm will also demonstrate standalone mmWave. Today, every mmWave deployment requires an “anchor” of sub-6GHz spectrum to provide control functions. Freeing mmWave from that control should allow 5G to be used in more applications such as fixed wireless broadband of the sort that T-Mobile provides.
Finally, Qualcomm said it would debut a technology called Smart Transmit 3.0, which intelligently manages the power as a smartphone uploads data to the network. Smart Transmit 3.0’s power-management algorithms will now include information sent via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.