Qualcomm touts LTE Broadcast software at Uplinq conference, sidesteps China issues

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) unveiled a software toolkit at its annual Uplinq developers conference that enables developers take advantage of LTE Broadcast technology, and it got a vote of confidence on the technology from Facebook (NASDAQ: FB). However, the company stayed mum on its troubles in China, where it is still the focus of an antitrust probe.

The chipset giant announced an LTE Broadcast software-development kit to enable developers to create applications that harness the technology, which is also known as LTE Multicast. Qualcomm said developers will be able to access a common API that can be used in all regions around the world that are trialing, testing or deploying LTE Multicast.

LTE Multicast is based upon evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS), and it enables the same content to be sent to a large number of subscribers at the same time, resulting in a more efficient use of network resources than having each user request the same content and then having the content unicast to each user.

"LTE Broadcast will fundamentally transform the way we experience and interact with live content," said Raj Talluri, a Qualcomm senior vice president of product management.

Qualcomm enables LTE Multicast at the chipset level. Until now, many carriers have described LTE Multicast as a way to distribute live TV content, especially sporting events, to a multitude of subscribers without eating up valuable network capacity. However, it could also have other uses, as a way to distribute large software updates to users across an LTE network. At the conference, Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president of engineering, noted that the social network now has about 400 million users who access the site exclusively on mobile devices, including Facbeook's app.

"We need the experience to be as fast, efficient, and as reliable as possible on mobile," Parikh said, according to PC Magazine, adding that pushing out Facebook software updates to devices more efficiently with LTE Multicast would be helpful, considering that the company upgrades its mobile app every couple of weeks.

The comments are notable in light of the fact that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) relied in part on its own in-house content-delivery network to deliver its iOS 8 software update to customers this week.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) intend to deploy LTE Multicast in 2015. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) reported last month that at least 16 operators are currently deploying or trialing LTE Multicast.

At an investor conference this week, Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said that chipsets that enable LTE Multicast are just starting to get embedded into phones and that in the fourth quarter most of Verizon's new phones will have the capability. However, he said it would take a year or two before Verizon has a "meaningful number of subscribers" capable of using the technology.

In other Qualcomm news, the company expects that at least 8 billion more smartphones will be sold in the next five years. Qualcomm Inc. CEO Steve Mollenkopf said what will be different is that in the developed world this next wave of smartphones will be "connected to a sea of other devices, and connected not only to the network but to each other."

"Innovation will occur at the edge of the Internet, where all these things come together," he added, according to Light Reading.

During a keynote presentation, Mollenkopf and other executives demonstrated Internet of Things technologies ranging from robots to toy-recognition applications. Qualcomm demoed a three-wheeled robot equipped with a smartphone camera and depth sensor powered by the firm's Snapdragon processors. The gadget had 22 force feedback actuators guiding it to pick up objects and put them in bins. According to PC Magazine, after the robot received instructions wirelessly from a tablet it was able to carry out its tasks by itself.

Qualcomm also released an SDK for digital eyewear and is teaming up with companies such as Samsung Electronics and Epson. The new platform, the Vuforia SDK for Digital Eyewear, is designed to help developers build hybrid virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) apps.

What Qualcomm didn't talk about was the Chinese antitrust probe still hanging over its business in the world's largest smartphone market. According to Reuters, a company representative at the Uplinq conference declined to comment on the investigation. Last month Chinese regulators said that Qualcomm was willing to make changes to improve its pricing practices in the country, which could lead to the end of the investigation. The probe could carry fines of as much as $1 billion for Qualcomm, though it seems likely that Qualcomm will try to reach a settlement with the regulators.

For more:
- see this Qualcomm release
- see this Reuters article
- see these two separate PC Magazine articles
- see these two separate Light Reading articles
- see this Engadget article

Related Articles:
Verizon's Shammo: We are talking to content owners about LTE multicast
GSA: 16 mobile operators are testing or deploying LTE Broadcast
AT&T to launch LTE Multicast in 2015
Qualcomm could be nearing settlement of Chinese antitrust investigation
Apple, Qualcomm and Microsoft learn the new cost of doing business in China
Qualcomm: Chinese antitrust probe likely will result in 'some loss'

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