Qualcomm pitches Gobi modem as device differentiator

SAN FRANCISCO--"The modem is truly the foundation of the mobile experience," said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president of product management for Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Technologies (QTI) in his keynote last week at the company's first modem workshop. The chipmaking giant invited press and analysts to the private modem event here to made a case for increased industry attention to competitive benchmarking of modem performance.

Qualcomm Gobi

Demo of Qualcomm's Gobi modem streaming 4G LTE. (Source: OnQ blog)

Qualcomm is facing increasing competition in the modem chipset space, with Intel even having entered the fray. By pushing for more benchmarking and touting the performance benefits of its modems, Qualcomm appears to be launching a preemptive strike against rivals' modems, which may be less costly or could gain market traction for other reasons.

Katouzian told workshop attendees that there are more than 700 device designs based on QTI's Gobi modem line and the company is already on its third-generation Gobi LTE modems, while some rivals are just entering the ecosystem.  

According to Katouzian, a well-designed modem benefits the entire mobile ecosystem. It can help users experience longer battery life, and faster and more reliable connections; operators enjoy improved network efficiency and reduced capex/opex and can better meet growing data demand; device OEMs see faster time to launch, sleeker form factors, easy inclusion of multiple cellular modes and lower development costs; and apps, unrestricted by connectivity issues, gain access to richer content on a wider range of devices.

During the event, QTI conducted a number of modem benchmarking demos using Anritsu base station emulators. The tests, not surprisingly, showed Qualcomm modems beating out those of rivals, none of which was specifically identified. For example, the vendor demonstrated 4K video streaming over LTE FDD and TD-LTE connections, with the Gobi modems delivering the videos flawlessly, while rival modems suffered slower performance and actually stopped to accommodate video feed buffering.

One point that came up repeatedly during the workshop was that accurate modem benchmarking using live networks is fraught with hurdles. Network loading, cell tower proximity, use cases--such as fixed environments vs. vehicular drive tests--dramatically impact measured performance, said Michael Thelander, CEO of Signals Research Group.

He also noted when it comes to accepting devices for use on their networks, mobile carriers are more focused on compliance with specifications than performance.

Similarly, Michael Barrick, Anritsu's senior business development manager, said that although different manufacturers design their modems to satisfy specs set by standards groups, there can be significant variations in modem performance due to proprietary baseband features, manufacturing processes and more.

Qualcomm also used the event to demonstrate a new technology feature called TruSignal, which offers downlink interference cancellation for higher throughputs. Sandeep Pandya, QTI senior director of product management, said that while rivals are enabling interference cancellation in a single-cell environment, Qualcomm is providing it in a multi-cell environment. TruSignal also includes an uplink antenna boost feature, which is designed to compensate for loss of signal to to the antenna, a situation that can be caused by a physical impediment such as user's hand covering the area of a device where the antenna is located.

According to the Trademarkia search engine, Qualcomm filed U.S. federal trademark registration number 86089877 for Qualcomm TruSignal on Oct. 11, 2013.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm blog entry
 - see this AnandTech article
- see this Telecoms EMEA article

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