Print 8 comment(s) - last by theapparition.. on Feb 14 at 12:22 PM

Stand-alone solution may be more affordable and cut power costs

Qualcomm, Inc.'s (QCOM) Snapdragon S4 was viewed as a major evolutionary leap in smartphone chipmaking as it incorporated an on-die 4G LTE modem into the central system-on-a-chip.  Not so fast, says Broadcom Corp. (BRCM).  The veteran modem-maker announced this week a stand-alone alternative that it brags will offer superior power and pricing to Qualcomm's offerings.

The 28 nm chip, dubbed BCM21892, is currently being sampled and will be mass-produced next year, targeting the smartphone and tablet markets.  It supports transmissions of up to 150 Mbps and voice-over-LTE (voLTE), as well as other advanced LTE technologies.  It cuts power consumption by about 25 percent from the previous generation and cuts space by 35 percent, both thanks to the die shrink.

Currently Broadcom dominates the market for Bluetooth/Wi-Fi helper chips for smartphones, a function that still has yet to be incorporated on-die in Qualcomm's chips.

But the LTE modem will likely see strong interest from handset designers, as well, given that the other top ARM chipmakers besides Qualcomm -- NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) -- lack on-die LTE.

Broadcom, a top mobile signalling support-chip producer has announced an
LTE offering for 2014. [Image Source: oskay/Flickr]

Broadcom wireless unit EVP Robert A. Rango comments, "Broadcom's new 4G LTE modem combined with our Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC technologies gives OEMs all the communications technologies needed to build advanced devices that will offer consumers the features, speed and functionality they demand in their next smartphone purchase.  Broadcom's 4G LTE modem will also help carriers drive new 4G LTE features, such as carrier aggregation, into commercial networks."

Analysts speculate that at some point Broadcom may leap from the role of teammate with NVIDIA and Samsung to rival, as it steps up its war with Qualcomm.  Speculation began in January when Broadcom purchased ARMv7 and ARMv8 instruction set licenses from ARM Holdings Plc. (LON:ARM).  

Currently Broadcom offers a few ARMv6-based processors (including the one used in the Raspberry Pi USB stick-style Linux computer), but lacks a serious smartphone processor offering.

Analysts think Broadcom may be preparing a next generation processor/modem system-on-a-chip for release sometime in the next couple years.  Such a move would certainly leverage Broadcom's extensive experience in signaling silicon, but it would also be risky as it could alienate NVIDIA and Samsung, hurting Broadcom's more traditional business.

Source: Broadcom

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By fic2 on 2/12/2013 6:30:58 PM , Rating: 2
Since this won't be available until 2014 I don't think many phone makers would be willing to miss a year of LTE handset sells so would probably incorporate the Qualcomm LTE solution.

RE: Availibility
By StevoLincolnite on 2/12/2013 11:15:23 PM , Rating: 4
I agree.

That "4G" sticker will probably be an important sticker to have on a box in the coming year.

RE: Availibility
By Jeffk464 on 2/14/2013 9:01:04 AM , Rating: 2
4G is no minor feature. Its about the most important feature on a smartphone, its huge.

RE: Availibility
By SpaceRanger on 2/13/2013 8:07:27 AM , Rating: 2
4G don't matter to me right now. Where I live, I can't even get 1 bar of 2G! (and I don't live in the mountains where there is no technology). Support for the mobile sector in my area is weak at best. I'll get more excited about announcements like this once my area hits the 21st century.

RE: Availibility
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/13/2013 12:02:58 PM , Rating: 2
To you, to the millions who can, it does matter.

RE: Availibility
By Jeffk464 on 2/14/2013 9:04:45 AM , Rating: 2
It cuts power consumption by about 25 percent from the previous generation

Thats a big plus but how does it compare to the S4 power consumption wise, not to its own previous generation. We definitely need smartphones that will go all day on a charge.

RE: Availibility
By theapparition on 2/14/2013 12:22:54 PM , Rating: 2
You act like those are the only two 4G options available. Qualcomm now or wait next year.

Hint, there's plenty of 4G phones on the market that don't use a Qualcomm chip.

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