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Qualcomm unveils high-end, midrange LTE chips

Posted: 18 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Qualcomm? LTE? WiFi? Broadcom? Mediatek?

Qualcomm has recently announced its 28nm Snapdragon 410 that the company said features a multimode LTE baseband along with a 64bit core, an upgraded Adreno 306 GPU, and support for 1080-progressive video playback and a 13MP camera. The company said it intends to make LTE available across all of the Snapdragon products, aiming for midrange handsets around the globe, including China.

"We are excited to bring 4G LTE to highly affordable smartphones at a sub $150 price point with the introduction of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor," said Jeff Lorbeck, SVP and chief operating officer, Qualcomm Technologies, China.

The Snapdragon chips are expected to sample in early 2014 and appear in commercial devices by 2H14. They will go up against offerings in the works at Broadcom, Mediatek and other vendors struggling for a stake in an expanding market for 4G handsets.

Snapdragon 410

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 410 will pack a multimode LTE baseband along with a 64bit core. The company said it intends to make LTE available across all of the Snapdragon products, gunning for midrange handsets around the globe. (Source: Qualcomm)

"The takeup of LTE is going much faster than anyone anticipated, where every country now is getting serious about it. It's no longer just a very high-end superphone; you're seeing LTE come down into more mainstream models," Broadcom CTO Henry Samueli told EE Times. "We bought Renesas Mobile so that helped us take the next step in getting a very mature LTE modem technology that Nokia has been working on for a decade."

Samueli added that Broadcom's future SoC with application processor will support frequency- and time-division versions of LTE. The company will first come out with a dual-core processor, followed by a quad-core and finally an advanced LTE thin modem with carrier aggregation that can support up to 300Mb/s.

The lag time between Qualcomm's announcement and the latest Snapdragon's ship date will give other companies plenty of time to compete, said Linley Gwennap, founder and chief analyst at The Linley Group.

"Qualcomm is very strong at the high end, MediaTek is the leader at low end," indicated Gwennap. "What we're seeing in the next year is Qualcomm invading Mediatek's market, and Mediatek will invade Qualcomm's; it's going to be a real slugfest out there."

Qualcomm "had the only handset multimode LTE chips in 2012 and this year still has 90 percent of that market," stated Will Strauss, principal of market watcher Forward Concepts of Tempe, Ariz.

For its part, Mediatek was the first company to use a Cortex-A7 processor and integrate WiFi into the low-end phone market, said Gwennap. It is now getting "jumped over" by Qualcomm offering LTE in the same market range. LTE isn't in high demand in low-cost phones, where Mediatek has an edge. Qualcomm will try to change that fact in 2014, Gwennap added.

The biggest hurdle for Qualcomm's competitors is in developing a base LTE platform quickly, said analyst Gary Smith of Gary Smith EDA.

"Qualcomm now has engineers free to work on the next upgrade, and if [competitors] don't get their base platform out for six months, then the game's pretty much over from there," Smith said. "Once a platform is established, it's almost impossible to catch up.

"We're going to see some new players jump into the game, but how much knowledge they have in the whole phone platform is going to be the difference."

The Snapdragon 410 which includes support for WiFi, Bluetooth, FM and NFC and is expected to consume 1-5W is a highly integrated offering, stated Gwennap.

"You can pretty much take what they are delivering and wrap some plastic around it and ship a smartphone," he said. "For other companies, it's a challenge to really pull together all those technologies and deliver them in a package."

- Jessica Lipsky
??EE Times

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