Qualcomm Technologies says cellular connectivity is point of differentiation in RF components

HONG KONG--Connectivity is now a key point of differentiation in mobile device modems according to Qualcomm, which is trading on the sheer number of cellular technologies now incorporated into its mobile device modems, with support for TDD and FDD variants of LTE a key selling point.

In a presentation to journalists during the company's 3G and LTE Summit here, senior director of marketing Peter Carson said Qualcomm Technologies has also incorporated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth into its chipsets, and is offering positioning technology in its cellular transceivers.

"In the RF side the key components are really the front-end solution, which…comprises several products," Carson explained, adding that those products include "the transceiver, which is a single chip that covers all these bands and bandwidth combinations [and] all the different cellular modes."

Carson briefed journalists as Qualcomm Technologies unveiled its latest generation of RF products, including new front-end components and RF transceivers the company said are designed to back the growth of LTE and LTE Advanced carrier aggregation across all tiers of LTE devices.

Products launched include a next generation integrated power amplifier (PA) and antenna switch, and an updated antenna matching tuner.

"[W]e're continuing to…improve battery life, reduce heat, and [enable production of] thinner devices by consolidating in a smaller area the components that are required to support all these different bands in LTE," Carson said. The latest generation of RF360 includes dynamic power amplifier control, whereby the PA receives "just the voltage it needs to supply the energy for transmission in various environments," he explained, adding that such intelligent control "preserves up to 20 per cent of the power and reduces…the heat by 30 per cent."

The sheer number of bands available in LTE presents a challenge, Carson continued. "In LTE we've got 30 bands and it's growing," he noted. "[T]hat poses the biggest challenge if you look at the complexity of an RF device...front end. The front end of the radio actually grows enormously in complexity."

Board space remains a key issue for device manufacturers, Carson said. Qualcomm is putting a "lot of effort" into simplifying and consolidating the RF front end to reduce the board area, while also increasing the number of bands supported on the single RF design to drive "better economies of scale, starting in the high end and trickling down to the low-end."

Smartphone battery life "is still at a premium" Carson added, noting that LTE users are "downloading more at a faster rate than we can introduce spectral efficiency gains, higher data rates." While the company is "still always improving battery life", the increase in usage means "we're constantly chasing that curve," he said.

However, Carson also explained that smartphones are just "one device that is utilising these technologies." He noted problems associated with band fragmentation "really shows up in any device that's inherently mobile, or any device that requires consolidation into a single skew for economies of scale."

Those economies are at risk in areas including machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and the Internet of Everything (IoE), Carson noted. "[O]ne of the challenges there is that when you do independent designs for 20 different segments that basically use the same cellular technology, you actually fragment your economies of scale," he stated.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm announcement

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