Broadcom is another big modem player in the market along with Qualcomm, although we don't hear much about them as they are usually more involved in Eastern markets. They're also making ARM SoC's, and their chips are in fact powering the Raspberry Pi, and other low-end devices. They are now announcing a new LTE-Advanced modem that should make Qualcomm and the others pay attention.
They claim their new BCM21892 modem will be 35% smaller than the competition, 25% more efficient in general, and 40% more efficient for VoLTE calls compared to WDCMA. That should make VoLTE calls start to become a reality, once most phones use chips like this one, and once the LTE-Advanced networks cover most regions.
LTE-Advanced, also called LTE Category 4, can go up to 150 Mbps in download speeds, while LTE Category 3, which is being implemented in some countries right now, can only go up to 100 Mbps. Here are some of the features that Broadcom's chip will be supporting:
- A baseband with support for all current 3GPP standards technologies including LTE FDD and TDD, LTE-Advanced with carrier aggregation, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA and EDGE/GSM.
-- An integrated world-band radio that can support virtually any designated 3GPP LTE frequency band and combination, a critical capability as operators prepare their networks for 4G LTE roaming. The radio also deploys advanced power management techniques that can save up to 25 percent of the power typically used when sending data to the network.
-- A Voice over LTE (VoLTE) solution that enables high-definition voice calls over a mobile broadband connection - a key requirement of operators as they transition from legacy networks. Broadcom's VoLTE service consumes approximately 40 percent less power than a comparable WCDMA voice call.
-- Enhanced interoperability with Broadcom's wireless coexistence technology, which minimizes the possibility of radio interference between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G LTE, and enables carriers to provide a richer Wi-Fi offload experience.
-- Ability to interface with a broad range of stand-alone applications processors, allowing OEMs to design the 4G LTE solution into a wide variety of mobile devices.
This Broadcom chip and its capabilities should be demoed at MWC this month, but don't be too excited about it yet. We won't be seeing this chip in products until 2014. Even then you'll probably have to wait another year or two before US carriers have deployed LTE-Advanced in enough cities in US (both Verizon and AT&T should start deploying it around 2014 or so). So the future where we're only using data to talk to people through VOIP/VoLTE is still a few years away, and that also implies that by then we'd be getting more than just 2 GB of data on smartphone data plans for reasonable prices.