Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 820 chipset will enable LTE-U in phones starting in 2016

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) said its Snapdragon 820 chipset, which is expected to be in many flagship smartphones in 2016, will support LTE-Unlicensed technology thanks to its upgraded modem. The silicon and technology giant noted that new phones powered by the chipset will be out in the first half of next year, and if customers are on a network that supports LTE-U, users "may experience a sudden boost in LTE speeds in areas that normally suffer from congestion."

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) have both said they intend to launch commercial LTE services into unlicensed spectrum starting next year.

Qualcomm said the LTE-U capabilities in its "X12 LTE" modem will boost downlink speeds by using carrier aggregation to bond together licensed LTE channels and LTE signals on unlicensed spectrum. The company also said the modem will improve network performance for other users by allowing LTE-U-capable phones to download content more quickly and free up network resources.  

LTE-U has attracted sharp opposition from Wi-Fi proponents, who argue that it will pose potentially harmful interference to Wi-Fi users. Last month the Wi-Fi Alliance put forward a proposal to certify LTE Unlicensed technologies.

Qualcomm, Verizon, T-Mobile, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) sharply criticized that proposal, arguing the Wi-Fi Alliance is seeking to become a "gatekeeper" for technology in unlicensed spectrum. The companies said the Wi-Fi Alliance's proposal would "jeopardize the [FCC's] entire framework that has made unlicensed spectrum so successful as an open platform for permissionless innovation."

The Wi-Fi Alliance has said its certification proposal is geared toward protecting existing Wi-Fi users in unlicensed spectrum: "The risk to users who depend on Wi-Fi every day for their connectivity needs is too great," Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said in a statement to FierceWirelessTech last month.

Qualcomm said the X12 LTE modem is designed to choose automatically between LTE and Wi-Fi, depending on signal quality, end-to-end speed, and Internet reachability. Qualcomm said that should also lead to improvements in Wi-Fi calling. Where its X10 LTE modem in Snapdragon 810 chip checked only for Wi-Fi signal strength before switching, the X12 LTE is designed first check all of those other network factors. And if network conditions deteriorate and congestion reduces speed on a public Wi-Fi hotspot, the modem is designed to switch the call back to LTE without dropping it.

The X12 modem supports LTE Category 12, with theoretical peak downlink speeds of 600 Mbps (a third faster than the Snapdragon 810's modem), and LTE Category 13 theoretical peak uplink speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm said that within the first year of its commercial launch, its Snapdragon 410 processor, which supports 64-bit computing power and LTE connectivity and is aimed at phones costing $150 or even lower in emerging markets, is now available in more than 550 mobile device devices. The Snapdragon 410 processor has also shipped more than 200 million units globally from more than 60 OEMs, Qualcomm said. Additionally, the Snapdragon 210 processor, which supports LTE and is aimed at even cheaper phones, has been included in more than 200 designs either shipped or in the device pipeline.

Qualcomm also announced that it is working with Latin American carrier América Móvil on its Global Pass program, which is aimed at cutting down device makers' upfront development costs and speeding up device launches. As América Móvil start deploying LTE in more of its markets, Qualcomm said the program will ensure OEMs can create differentiated LTE products that comply with América Móvil's unique regional specifications more quickly and affordably.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm Snapdragon release
- see this Engadget article 
- see this The Verge article 
- see this second Qualcomm Snapdragon release 
- see this Qualcomm/América Móvil release 

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