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Qualcomm chips target LTE carrier aggregation, 150 Mbps peak speeds

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BARCELONA, Spain--Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) rolled out its latest Gobi modem platform for mobile computing products, which includes carrier aggregation capabilities and support for LTE Category 4 peak data rates of 150 Mbps.

The Gobi MDM9x25 embedded platform for thin form factor laptops, tablets and convertibles is based upon Qualcomm Technologies' MDM9225 and MDM9625 chipsets.

The platform also includes Qualcomm's new RF360 front end solution, a system-level approach that addresses cellular radio frequency band fragmentation and enables a single, global LTE design for mobile devices. Qualcomm claims RF360 will enable OEMs to easily develop multiband, multimode mobile devices supporting all seven cellular modes, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE.

Among other things, RF360 silicon includes the industry's first envelope power tracker for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, said Peter Carson, Qualcomm's senior director of marketing. The envelope power tracker helps deliver performance enhancements by controlling voltage dynamically, feeding just the amount of voltage needed at any point in time. This results in a 30 percent power reduction and corresponding heat reduction, which enables OEMs to shrink the size of their devices.

In fact, Qualcomm says the RF360 solution ultimately reduces the RF front end footprint inside of a smartphone by up to 50 percent compared to the current generation of devices, which will be crucial when operators begin implementing carrier aggregation, jamming additional componentry into devices on their networks.

The Qualcomm RF360 front end solution also includes a dynamic antenna matching tuner. This unique modem-assisted and configurable antenna-matching technology extends antenna range to operate over frequency bands from 700 to 2700 MHz.

Qualcomm Gobi MDM9x25 chipsets began sampling to module vendors last November and will enable commercial device launches in the second half of this calendar year, right about the time frame Tier 1 operators have targeted for carrier aggregation rollouts on their networks. "That's when board real estate [on end-user devices] becomes a real premium," said Carson.

Only 10 percent of current LTE operators have a contiguous 20 MHz swath of spectrum capable of delivering maximum downlink speeds of 100 Mbps for LTE Category 3 or 150 Mbps for Category 4 services, said Carson. Only LTE operators in Europe and India are believed to have the requisite spectrum holdings to deliver Category 3 and 4 speeds without turning to aggregation.

Further, none of the current North American LTE operators hold enough contiguous spectrum to create a 20 MHz block that can deliver Category 3 peak speeds of 100 Mbps, though Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) has said it intends to launch LTE later this year using a 20 MHz channel.

That is why U.S. operators such as Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T) each intend to aggregate their respective 700 MHz and AWS spectrum holdings so they can deliver higher LTE data speeds to their customers.

Aggregation complicates the existing global LTE band fragmentation issue by a factor of two, at least. There are more than some 30 LTE frequency bands worldwide and 10 or so other 2G and 3G bands. At least half of all of those bands need to be supported to enable global roaming, said Carson.

Demos conducted at both Qualcomm's and Ericsson's (NASDAQ:ERIC) booths during the Mobile World Congress here showed the use of LTE carrier aggregation to enable Category 4 data rates. The demos featured Qualcomm's MDM9225 chipset being used in a Sierra Wireless AirCard Mobile Hotspot Live operating over Ericsson network infrastructure.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm release and this release

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