A look at the Qualcomm Snapdragon X16: The modem for future 4K UHD smartphones

by on February 11, 2016

Stephan Jukic – February 11, 2016

4K video is a format with lots of promise and plenty of growth ahead of it, not just in TVs but in cameras and of course internet video and mobile devices as a natural offshoot of this. However, plenty of obstacles remain in its way, not least among them being the massive file sizes that 4K media carry with them.

Now however, Qualcomm is pondering this problem and as a result, they’ve come up with the new X16 smartphone modem which supposedly supports massive download speeds of 1Gbps on mobile internet.

In other words, the X16 could allow for a normal 4K movie, with a typical file size of roughly 100GB, to download in as little as 13 minutes, and an HD Blu-ray movie, which is about 20GB, to download in just 3 minutes or so.

This Gigabit modem, which goes by the name Snapdragon X16, is the sixth generation development of its kind from Qualcomm, the company’s sixth generation LTE chipset in other words. And in the case of this new chipset for LTE, the technology inside is quite advanced, with a new highly efficient 14nm FinNET manufacturing process and support for what Qualcomm calls “Fiber-like” LTE Category 16 download speeds.

This means that the modem performance of the X16 is better than that of the Cat.6 modem found in the iPhone 6S and better also than the modem technology of the 4K-capable Snapdragon 820 SoC chip, which offers X12 technology for its modem. Furthermore, the X16 offers superior LTE performance to that rumored for upcoming systems in other flagship phones like the Galaxy S7and the LG G5, both of which will possibly come with the Snapdragon 820 chipset and its X12, Cat.12 LTE support technology.

It should also be noted that Qualcomm is a major market player and possibly leader in the smartphone chip manufacturing world, with its technology being found in many phone maker’s devices and other parts. Apple is one such example and Qualcomm modems have been built into both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6S.

What this means in other words, is that the highly advanced new X16 modem has a very good chance of also appearing in a future Apple smartphone device or in other future phones, as 4K display and 4K mobile content develop.

According to Cristiano Amon, executive VP of Qualcomm Technologies, “In addition to serving as a significant milestone for the mobile industry, the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem is a powerful testament to Qualcomm Technologies’ continued technology leadership in all things wireless.”.

He also pointed out that “Not only does the Snapdragon X16 blur the lines between wired and wireless broadband, but marks an important step toward 5G as we enable deeper unlicensed spectrum integration with LTE and more advanced MIMO to support growing data consumption and deliver an ever faster consumer experience.”


We must however mention here that simply having a smartphone with a modem powerful enough to download a 4K video in just 13 minutes doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do such a thing right away. Though a growing quantity of 4K content is available for download from the web to any compatible device with the necessary display specs (as more smartphones will come equipped with in the coming years), the real bottleneck to all of this wonderfully fast wireless internet capability comes from network carriers. Very few of them can offer Gigabit internet or anything close to it for their wireless subscribers, and even many domestic networks don’t offer the kinds of download speeds that the X16 can handle.

Thus, while the X16 will certainly give the phones which contain it a considerable LTE edge whenever they’re used on an ultra-fast mobile network, most people with X16-equipped phones will still be stuck with only the world’s best mobile phone modem doing little more than making the best of mediocre connectivity speeds, at least for now.

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