Qualcomm hedges standards bets with new 3.5G/4G chip

Qualcomm announces a chipset for all mobile data standards. The new offering will work with HSPA+, EVDO Rev. B, and LTE, as well as paired radio chipsets for worldwide frequency support.

Qualcomm has become increasingly ecumenical as the firm has aged. Once an aggressive defender against any efforts that would weaken its market for CDMA technology, the chipmaker has announced a new chipset that allows handset makers to use all current 3G and most future 3.5G and 4G cellular standards.

The new chipset, available for manufacturer prototyping in mid-2010, will support HSPA+, EVDO Rev. B, and LTE. Qualcomm had earlier released the Gobi chipset for laptops and netbooks, which supports both dominant worldwide 3G data standards.

The chipset will work with a new transceiver offering, due for sampling later in 2009, that will support all radio frequencies used around the world for 3G and 4G, as well as providing the underlying hardware for Bluetooth, FM radio, and GPS reception.

The chipset also includes support for Simultaneous Voice-Data Operation (SV-DO), an important inclusion as EV-DO doesn't by itself pass voice and data at the same time, as HSPA networks allow.

Qualcomm developed the voice cell standard CDMA, used by the largest numbers of subscribers in the US and Asian nations. Most carriers that adopted CDMA for their all-digital voice standard (second-generation or 2G) moved to EVDO (Evolution Data Only), a backwards-compatible successor, for third-generation (3G) networks.

Worldwide, however, GSM has the lion's share of the mobile market, where most carriers adopted HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) for their 3G evolution. A faster flavor that's planned for rollout in the next year or two is known as HSPA+. It's a cheaper and simpler upgrade than a full 4G deployment, and is technically a 3.5G standard. HSPA+ can triple the current highest HSPA speeds.

Also playing into Qualcomm's decision is the defection by Verizon Wireless to the GSM camp for its 4G network plans. Verizon will use LTE instead of a Qualcomm standard, despite years of adherence to the CDMA roadmap. Verizon has previously said it may have LTE operating in some fashion in the US during 2009. Sprint Nextel opted for WiMax, technically a 4G standard, which is available today, but could be outpaced by LTE's speed.

By supporting HSPA+ and LTE, Qualcomm improves its foothold into the largest growing market segment. Throwing in EVDO Rev. B, a faster flavor of the currently deployed Rev. A standard used by Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, allows manufacturers to produce a single model of smartphone that could be sold worldwide. The same phone could also roam among markets using the fastest network in whatever country it's used in.

A single smartphone that can transcend network types and frequency assignments within the US and abroad may be able to command a small premium, and make for happier buyers who find they can use (and perhaps pay excessively for) advanced data access everywhere they go.

Source: ars technica

Tags: 4G, LTE, Qualcomm

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