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Posts Tagged ‘networking’

Grapeboard Raspberry Pi Lookalike Comes with Dual Gigabit Ethernet, Two USB 3.0 Ports

December 30th, 2017 13 comments

Scalys is a startup founded in 2016 in the Netherlands by Sintecs in order to provide advanced high-performance embedded system solutions for automotive-, avionics-, defence-, industrial-, medical and telecommunication industries. So the company is rather new, but if you visit their website, you’ll find they already have several systems-on-module and single board computers (SBCs) based on NXP QorIQ processors.

Grapeboard SBC is their latest product powered by NXP QorIQ LS1012A (LayerScape 1012A) single core SoC with 1GB RAM, and equipped with two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, two USB 3.0 ports, an M.2 SATA connector, etc… that make it suitable for IoT applications such as sensor/IoT gateways, communication hubs, and secure edge devices.

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GrapeBoard specifications:

  • SoC – NXP QorIQ LS1012A single core Cortex A53 processor @ up to 800 MHz with Packet Forwarding Engine
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3
  • Storage
    • 64Mb (8MB) SPI NOR Flash for BCD and bootloader,
    • 512Mb/64MB SPI NOR Flash for u-boot and Linux kernel
    • micro SD card slot
  • Connectivity
    • 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE via Realtek RTK8723BU module; SMA antenna connector
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Expansion
    • 26-pin Raspberry Pi expansion connector
    • M.2 connector with SATA, PCIe, and USB 2.0/3.0 (multiplexed)
  • Debugging – JTAG header, micro USB port for serial console
  • Security – Integrated security engine (SEC), QorIQ Trust Architecture, Arm TrustZone
  • Power Supply – 4.5 to 16V DC input via power barrel jack
  • Dimensions – 85.60 x 56mm (est. based on Raspberry Pi board dimensions)

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The board is supposed to run Linux, and we do not know availability nor pricing information right now, as the website setup for the board has very limited information at this stage. However, we may soon find out more, as LinuxGizmos  reports Scalys will showcase the board at CES 2018 in less than two weeks.

SolidRun MACCHIATObin Single Shot Networking Board Launched for $269 and Up

December 20th, 2017 7 comments

Earlier this month, I listed SoliRun MACCHIATObin networking board as one of the top 5 most powerful ARM boards in 2017/2018, thanks to its fast quad core Cortex A72 processor, support for up to 16GB RAM, three SATA interfaces, and network connectivity options with several Ethernet copper/SFP interfaces up to 10 Gbps.

The problem with powerful boards is that they can be expensive, and the original MACCHIATOBin (Double Shot) board sells for $369 and up. The good news is that SolidRun has just launched a cheaper version called MAACHIATOBin Single Shot with a quad core Cortex A72 processor limited to 1.6 GHz (instead of 2.0 GHz), and the two 10 Gbps interface are only accessibly through SFP cages, and not Ethernet copper (RJ45) ports anymore.

MACCHIATOBin Single Shot is based on the same PCB as the original version of the board, and the rest of the specifications are just the same:

  • SoC – ARMADA 8040 (88F8040) quad core Cortex A72 processor @ up to 1.6 GHz with accelerators (packet processor, security engine, DMA engines, XOR engines for RAID 5/6)
  • System Memory – 1x DDR4 DIMM with optional ECC and single/dual chip select support; up to 16GB RAM
  • Storage – 3x SATA 3.0 port, micro SD slot, SPI flash, eMMC flash
  • Connectivity – 2x 10Gbps Ethernet via copper or SFP, 2.5Gbps via SFP,  1x Gigabit Ethernet via copper
  • Expansion – 1x PCIe-x4 3.0 slot, Marvell TDM module header
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 port, 2x USB 2.0 headers (internal),  1x USB-C port for Marvell Modular Chip (MoChi) interfaces (MCI)
  • Debugging – 20-pin connector for CPU JTAG debugger, 1x micro USB port for serial console, 2x UART headers
  • Misc – Battery for RTC, reset header, reset button, boot and frequency selection, fan header
  • Power Supply – 12V DC via power jack or ATX power supply
  • Dimensions – Mini-ITX form factor (170 mm x 170 mm)

They just did not solder the 10 Gbps Ethernet connectors and related chips, and used some ARMADA 8040 SoCs that may not have passed QA @ 2.0 GHz, but work fine up to 1.6 GHz.

The board supports mainline Linux or Linux 4.4.52, buildroot 2015.11, Ubuntu 16.04.03 LTS, OpenWrt, and more. Software and hardware documentation can be found in the Wiki.

Just like it’s predecessor, the board ships with either 4GB or 16GB DDR4 memory, an optional 12V DC/110 or 220V AC power adapter, and an optional 16 GB micro SD card. The changes made bring the price down to $269 for the 4GB RAM version of the board, exactly $100 cheaper than the original “Double Shot” version.

Thanks to Blu for the tip.

A Day at Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0

December 6th, 2017 6 comments

The Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0 is now taking place until December 9, and I went there today, as I was especially interested in the scheduled NB-IoT talk and workshop to find out what was the status about LPWA in Thailand. But there are many other activities planned, and if you happen to be in Chiang Main in the next few days, you may want to check out the schedule on the event page or Facebook.

I’m going to go though what I’ve done today to give you a better idea about the event, or even the maker movement in Thailand.

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Booth and activity area should be the same over the 4 days, but the talks, open activity, and workshop will be different each day. Today, people could learn how to solder in the activity area.
The even was not really big with manufacturers/sellers like ThaiEasyElec, INEX, or Gravitech closer to the entrance…


… and slighter higher up in a different zone, companies and makers were showcasing their products or projects. I still managed to spent 5 interesting hours at the event attending to talks and checking out the various projects.

I started my day with a talk entitled “Maker Movement in South East Asia” presented by William Hooi, previously a teacher, who found One Maker Group and setup the first MakerSpace in Singapore, as well as helped introduce the Maker Faire in Singapore in 2012 onwards.


There was three parts to talk with an history of the Maker movement (worldwide), the maker movement in Singapore, and whether Making should be integrated into school curriculum.
He explained at first the government who not know about makers, so it was difficult to get funding, but eventually they jump on the bandwagon, and are now puring money on maker initiative. One thing that surprised me in the talk is that before makers were hidden their hobby, for fear of being mocked by other, for one for one person doing an LED jacket, and another working on an Iron Man suit. The people around them would not understand why they would waste their time on such endeavors, but the Maker Space and Faire helped finding like minded people. Some of the micro:bit boards apparently ended in Singapore, and when I say some, I mean 100,000 units. Another thing that I learned is the concept of “digital retreat for kids” where parents send kids to make things with their hands – for example soldering -, and not use smartphone or tablets at all, since they are already so accustomed to those devices.

One I was done with the talk, I walked around, so I’ll report about some of the interesting project I came across. I may write more detailed posts for some of the items lateron.

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Falling object detection demo using OpenCV on the software side, a webcam connected to…

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ASUS Tinker board to handle fall detection, and an NVIDIA Jetson board for artificial intelligence. If fall is detection an alert to send to the tablet, and the system also interfaces with Xiaomi Mi band 2.

Katunyou has also made a more compact product, still based on Tinker Board, for nursing home, or private home where an elderly may live alone. The person at the stand also organizes Raspberry Pi 3 workshops in Chiang Mai.

I found yet another product based on Raspberry Pi 3 board. SRAN is a network security device made by Global Tech that report threats from devices accessing your network using machine learning.

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Nordic Technology House showcased a magic mirror based on Raspberry Pi 3, and a webcam to detect your dance move, but their actual product shown above is a real-time indoor air monitoring system that report temperature, humidity, CO2 level, and PM 2.5 levels, and come sent alerts via LINE if thresholds are exceeded.

One booth had some drones including the larger one above spraying insecticides for the agriculture market.

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There was also a large about sewing machines, including some smarter one where you can design embroidery in a table before sewing.

There were also a few custom ESP8266 or ESP32 boards, but I forgot to take photos.

The Maker Party is also a good place to go with your want to buy some board or smart home devices.

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Beside Raspberry Pi Zero W / 3, ESP8266 boards and Asus Tinker board seem to be popular items in Thailand. I could also spot Sonoff wireless switch, and an Amazon Dot, although I could confirm only English is supported, no Thai language.

BBC Micro:bit board and accessories can also be bought at the event.


M5Stack modules, and Raspberry Pi 3 Voice Kit were also for sale.

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Books are also available for ESP32, Raspberry Pi 3, IoT, etc… in Thai language.

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But if you can’t read Thai there was also a choice of book in English about RPi, Arduino, Linux for Makers, IoT and so on. I then attended the second talk of the day: “NB-IoT” by AIS, one of the top telco company in Thailand. Speakers included Phuchong Charoensub, IoT Marketing Specialist, and Pornsak Hanvoravongchai, Device Innovation Manager, among others. They went through various part include a presentation of AIS current M2M business, what IoT will change (e.g. brings in statups and makers), some technical details about NB-IoT, and the company offering for makers.

I’ll go into more details in a separate post tomorrow, but if you want to get started the good news is that it’s now possible to pre-order a 1,990 THB Arduino Shield ($61) between December 6-9, and get it shipped on February 14, 2018. NB-IoT connectivity is free for one year, and will then cost 350 Baht (around $10) per year per device. However, there’s a cost to enable NB-IoT on LTE base stations, so AIS will only enable NB-IoT at some universities, and maker spaces, meaning for example, I would most certainly be able to use such kit from home. An AIS representative told me their no roadmap for deployment, it will depend on the business demand for such services.

If you are lucky you may even spot one or two dancing dinosaurs at the event.

Top 5 Most Powerful Arm SBCs & Development Boards in 2017 / Early 2018

December 4th, 2017 12 comments

Raspberry Pi, Orange Pi, and NanoPi boards among others are all great and inexpensive Arm Linux development boards that do good enough job for many tasks, but they may not cut it if you have higher requirements either in terms of CPU power, GPU capabilities and performance, I/O bandwidth, and in some cases software and support.

So I’ve decided to make a list of 5 single board computers or development boards that I consider to be the most powerful in 2017, early 2018. I have limited the price to $1,000 maximum, the board must be easy to purchase for most people (e.g. you don’t need to be a tier-1 automotive supplier, or operate your own datacenter), and in case the board is not quite available yet, the likeliness of actual launch must be reasonably high. Those criteria for example exclude Intrinsyc Open-Q 835 development kit since it costs $1.149 and the company may not sell to individuals (TBC). Let’s get started. You’ll find more details for each board by clicking on the headings links.

NVIDIA Jetson TX2 Developer Kit – Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision

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The developer kit is comprised of a mini ITX carrier board taking Jetson TX2 system-on-module powered by an Tegra X2 hexa core processor (2x Denver +
4x ARM Cortex A57) with a high-end 256-core Pascal GPU (desktop class with OpenGL 4.5 support), 8GB RAM, 32GB storage, and more.

The company provides a Linux for Tegra and JetPack 3.0 SDK to leverage the board deep learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision capabilities.

NVIDIA Tegra TX2 developer kit sells for $599 on NVIDIA store or Arrow Electronics.

Hikey 960 – AOSP Development Platform

Hikey 960 is a development board that complies with 96Boards CE specifications, and features Huawei/Hisilicon Kirin 960 octa-core big.LITTLE processor with four ARM Cortex A73 cores @ up to 2.4 GHz, four Cortex A53 cores @ up to 1.8 GHz, and a Mali-G71 MP8 GPU. The board is further equipped with 3GB LPDDR4, and 32GB UFS 2.1 flash storage.

The board will be especially interesting to Android developers since it is officially supported by AOSP, and you can work on the latest Android version with a powerful development platform.

Hikey 960 is sold for $239.99 on Seeed Studio, or Amazon.

SolidRun MACCHIATOBin – A Networking Workhorse

MacchiatoBIN mini-ITX board may come with a powerful Marvell ARMADA quad core Cortex A72 processor clocked up to 2.0 GHz, but what makes it stand apart are its storage and networking ports with three SATA 3.0 interfaces, and multiple Gigabit, 2.5 Gbps and 10 Gbps network interfaces. The board ships with 4GB RAM by default, but its DDR4 DIMM supports up to 16GB of memory.

Solidrun/Marvell MacchiatoBIN board can be purchased on Solidrun website for $369 to $518 depending on options (RAM, power supply, micro SD card).

Dragonboard 820c – Linux, 96Boards Compliance & Ecosystem

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DragonBoard 820c is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core Kryo processor with Adreno 530 GPU, 3 GB LPDDR4, and 32 GB UFS Flash. The board complies with 96Board CE Extended specifications, and include Gigabit Ethernet and an mSATA/mPCIe slot not found in smaller boards.

Contrary to Hikey 960 above supporting Android only, the Qualcomm board supports Linux (Debian, Open Embedded, Yocto Project) on top of Android, and also benefits from 96Boards ecosystem in terms of software support, and hardware expansion boards called Mezzanine products.

The board was first spotted in May 2016, and it is now available yet, which has understandly lead people to suspect a case of “Vaporware“, but Bill Davies, responsible for Arrow’s DragonBoard program, very recently responded that he expected the board to start selling in “weeks”, not “months”. Linaro engineers have also been working on the platform, even having some fun with a video game arcade project. So we can probably expect it early next year.

GIGABYTE Synquacer – 24 Cores for your Arm PC

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GIGABYTE Synquacer macro-ITX board won’t beat any single thread records with its SocioNext SC2A11 ARM Cortex A53 processor, but considering there are 24 of those, the board could perform well with workloads that can utilize all 24 cores in parallel.

What really make this board “powerful” however is its flexibility, as it’s an ATX motherboard – compatible with 96Boards Enterprise specifications – that will be sold either as a standalone board, or in a PC tower. You’ll be able to add up to 64GB memory via its 4 DIMM slots, SATA hard drives and SSDs to its two SATA connectors, and add off-the-shelf PCIe cards. It will mostly serve as a development platform to test and support PC accessories, and be a first step in bringing an Arm development computer that can challenge x86 solutions.

The system was first expected in December of this year, but the latest news states shipping is expected to start in January 2018, and reservations can already be made on Chip One Stop.

I’d expect some of the boards here to be dethroned by Arm Cortex A75 solution or other custom ARMv8 cores by the end of 2018. If you disagree with the list, and what are included another board, let us know in the comments section taking into account the limitation expressed in the introduction.

Fingbox Helps You Monitor & Manage Devices on Your Network with Your iOS/Android Smartphone

November 19th, 2017 10 comments

Fing network scanner mobile app available for iOS and Android that allows you to discover which devices are connected to your Wi-Fi network, map devices, detect intruders, assess network security risks, troubleshoot network problems, and optimize wireless network performance.

But in order to go beyond network monitoring, the developers have designed Ubuntu Core based Fingbox hardware to add features such as access control (e.g. parental control), analyze the usage of bandwidth for each clients, find Wi-Fi sweet spots/ avoid black spots, verify your Internet speed, monitor devices in your network, and protects it with a digital fence that works against threats.

From a hardware perspective Fingbox is a round shaped Ethernet node with the following specifications:

  • Processor – ARMv7 processor
  • System Memory – 1GB RAM
  • Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet

The Linux (Ubuntu Core) device just needs to be connected to your network via an Ethernet cable, and powered by its adapter. You’d then run Fing app on Android or iOS, which will automatically detect the Fingbox, and allow you to easily monitor and control devices on your home network. The best way to clearly understand what the device brings to the table is to watch the demo embedded below.

Fingbox was launched through an Indiegogo campaign, that ended up very successfully with 20,000 backers, and over @1.6 millions raised, but now you can purchased it directly from Amazon for $129 with shipping to US, UK, EU, and Canada, or Fing website for other countries.

When I think about it, I’m wondering why we don’t get such functionality from the router directly, as surely that’s something vendors could implement in the firmware, except possibly on the cheapest models due to storage and/or memory limitations, with no added hardware cost. Feel free to comment if you can already use your smartphone to monitor and manage other devices via your router, or is Fingbox the only workable solution right now?

Gateworks Newport SBCs Powered by Cavium Octeon TX 64-bit ARM SoC are Designed for Networking Applications

November 11th, 2017 3 comments

Gateworks is a US based company that provides embedded hardware solutions to mobile and wireless communications markets such as their NXP i.MX6 powered  Ventana single board computers, including Ventana GW5530 SBC with compact form factor making it suitable for robotics projects and drones.

The company has now launched a new family of single board computers with Newport boards based on Cavium Octeon TX dual and quad core processors, and targeting high performance network applications with up to 5 GbE copper Ethernet ports, 2 SFP ports for fiber.

GW6300/GW6304 SBC – Click to Enlarge

Eight boards from 4 board designs using the dual or quad core version of the processors will be launched in sequence until Q2 2018, but let’s first have a closer look at Newport GW6300/GW6304 boards’ specifications since they are available now:

  • SoC
    • GW6300 – Cavium Octeon TX CN8020 dual core custom ARMv8.1 SoC @ 800 MHz
    • GW6304 – Cavium Octeon TX CN8030 quad core custom ARMv8.1 SoC @ 1.5GHz
  • System Memory
    • GW6300 – 1GB DDR4 (default); optional up to 4GB
    • GW6304 – 2GB DDR4 (default); optional up to 4GB
  • Storage – 8GB eMMC flash (4 to 64GB option), micro SD socket, 1x mSATA 3.0 (See expansion)
  • Networking – 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports (RJ45)
  • GNSS – Ublox ZOE-MQ8 GNSS GPS Receiver with PPS (optional on GW6300, standard on GW6304)
  • USB – 2x USB 3.0 ports up to 5 Gbps
  • Expansion
    • mPCIe socket 1 – PCIe or GW1608x expansion, USB 2.0
    • mPCIe socket 2 – PCIe or mSATA, USB 2.0
    • mPCIe socket 3 – PCIe or USB 3.0, USB 2.0, SIM

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    • Connector for 2x RS232 or 1x RS232/422/485 serial port
    • Digital I/O, I2C, and SPI headers
    • CAN 2.0B bus header via Microchip MCP25625  (optional on GW6300, standard on GW6304)
  • Security – Tamper switch support, optional Maxim DS28C22 Secure Authentication and Encryption
  • Misc – Real Time Clock with battery backup, voltage and temperature monitor, serial configuration EEPROM, programmable watchdog timer, programmable fan speed controller, programmable shut-down and wake-up,
  • Power Supply
    • 8 to 60V DC via barrel jack
    • Ethernet Jack Passive PoE with Input Voltage Range: 10 to 60V
    • Ethernet Jack 802.3at PoE with Input Voltage Range: 37 to 57V
    • Input Voltage Reverse and Transient Protection
  • Power Consumption
    • GW6300 – 6W @ 25°C typ.
    • GW6304 – 8W @ 25°C typ.
  • Dimensions – 105 x 100 x 21 mm (Compatible with Ventana GW5300 SBC)
  • Temperature Range – -40°C to +85°C
  • Weight – 96 grams

GW6300/4 Board Block Diagram – Click to Enlarge

The company provides OpenWrt and Ubuntu board support packages (BSP) for the boards. The company sells the board standalone, but also as a development kit (GW11042) with U-Boot bootloader, OpenWrt Linux BSP, Ethernet/ Serial/USB cables, passive PoE power injector and power supply, and a JTAG programmer. More technical details about software and hardware can be found in the Wiki.

Octeon TX Block Diagram

Octeon TX processors are specifically designed for networking applications, include networking acceleration engines & hardware virtualization, and can deliver IPSec performance of 8Gbps with only 2 cores.

If Newport GW6300/GW6304 SBCs do not match your requirements, Gateworks have 6 more SBCs planned with different form factors and various combinations of Ethernet ports.

Newport Family Matrix – Click to Enlarge

As you can see from the table above, some boards are available now, with a rollout of other versions planned until Q2 2018. Price for GW6300/GW6304 boards is not publicly available, but you can request a quote, inquire for customization options, and find more details on the product page.

WifiMETRIX Wi-Fi Networks Analyzer Supports Packet Injection, Throughput Analysis

November 2nd, 2017 No comments

Nuts about Nets (that’s the company name…) WifiMETRIX is a dual band WiFi diagnostic tool used to analyze, monitor and troubleshoot Wi-Fi networks. The handheld device implements two main features:

  • AirHORN RF signal / channel generator that transmits RF signals for each of the Wi-Fi channels, and aids in testing Wi-Fi antennas, RF shields and wireless networks.
  • WiFiPROBE for per channel’s throughput analysis

The device operates in standalone mode and does not need to associate with the access point to perform the functions.

WifiMETRIX technical specifications:

  • Dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fi chip
  • Antennas / connectors
    • Dual-band antenna for 2.4 and 5.x GHz ISM bands
    • Standard 50 ohm SMA antenna connector
    • 50 ohm SMA terminator to protect antenna connection
    • SMA terminator (dummy load) also used for calibrating the device
  • Functions
    • AirHORN channel / signal generator functionality (packet injection)
    • WifiPROBE channel analyzer functionality
  • Display – 128×64 built-in LCD screen
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
  • Dimensions – 210mm x 155mm x 39mm (Solid aluminum case plus silicon rubber boot protector)
  • Weight – 425 grams
  • Certifications – CE and FCC compliance

The AirHORN feature can be used to test WiFi antennas & amplifiers, test the effectiveness of RF shield designs,  stress-test wireless networks, align directional Wi-Fi antennas, quick evaluation of receiver performance, and locating Wi-Fi dead spots.

The WifiPROBE feature can be used to detect presence of RF interferences,  determine whether performance can be improved by using a different channel, quantify expected change in performance that would result from using a different channel,  configure Wi-Fi networks with the goal of improving throughput performance, and as a tool to help placing Wi-Fi devices into a location offering the best performance.

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You can find how to use the device in the documentation page, which also explains how to interpret the results. The WiFiMETRIX is on back order on Seeed Studio for $295 with shipping expected on November 11.

Snapdragon X50 5G Modem Makes it First Data Connection

October 17th, 2017 1 comment

5G technology is expected to launch in 2019, and Qualcomm has recently made a step towards this goal with the company announcing their first 5G data connection with Snapdragon X50 modem on on 28GHz mmWave Spectrum.

The demonstration took place in Qualcomm Technologies’ laboratories in San Diego, and achieved Gigabit download speeds using several 100 MHz 5G carriers.

Snapdragon X50 (Left); 26GHz mmWave antenna module (Right)

Snapdragon X50 5G Modem’s product page lists some of the key features of the chip:

  • Up to 5 gigabits per second download speeds
  • Initial support for operation in the 28 GHz millimeter wave band. It can connect using up to 800 MHz of bandwidth via 8×100 MHz carrier aggregation.
  • Supports advanced multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) techniques such as adaptive beamforming and beam tracking
  • Composed of the modem as well as the SDR051 mmWave transceiver

The modem can be paired with a Snapdragon processor to provide multi-mode 4G/5G capability, and the company expects it to be found in fixed wireless applications, with Snapdragon X50 5G modem to replace fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) installations with wireless 5G connections.

The company also unveiled their first mmWave 5G smartphone reference design, which they use to test and optimize 5G mmWave performance using a mobile form factor.  The Snapdragon X50 5G NR (New Radio) modem family is expected to be found in 5G smartphones and networks in the H1 2019. Whether you can use that technology that early or not will depend on your budget, your country’s  5G license policy, and launch of 5G services by telecommunication companies.