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Integrated Components Accelerate LTE

Simon Stanley
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Simon Stanley

The latest highly integrated components for both basestations and smartphones, tablets, and other devices are enabling a massive acceleration of LTE. Multiple networks are launching every month, and operators are extending coverage within existing networks, supplying lower-cost LTE handsets and supporting greater bandwidth on each LTE connection.

The significant reduction in the number of components required for an LTE macro basestation is reducing the cost of entry for new operators and driving down the price of system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for small basestations, dramatically reducing the cost of LTE coverage in dense, indoor or rural environments. Many of the latest devices already support LTE-Advanced with carrier aggregation, allowing operators to make use of multiple bands to support greater bandwidth to subscribers.

The shift to smartphones with quad-core processors and advanced graphics capabilities, including HD video, is creating a subscriber base that expects low-latency, unlimited, and ubiquitous connectivity. LTE is the only current mobile technology that allows carriers to meet these expectations for most subscribers: 5G solutions are likely to complement rather than replace LTE in the future.

LTE is the world's fastest-growing mobile technology, outpacing both 2G and 3G rollouts. LTE networks are deployed, being deployed, or being planned in every continent and within most countries. Operators are making major investments in LTE as the technology delivers significantly lower cost per bit and a scalable network that can grow to support higher bandwidths and greater coverage.

The market for integrated LTE silicon solutions has seen significant changes during the past year, with many companies making significant investments and others announcing their withdrawal from the market. We have also seen a major push from Chinese silicon vendors to attack the LTE-enabled handset market. The shift to 28nm devices has enabled SoC solutions for LTE handsets and many basestations. This shift has also increased the cost of silicon development and required vendors to have access to the component IP for entire solution. These trends are accelerating as vendors develop next-generation solutions.

Heavy Reading's new report, "LTE Base Station & Handset Components 2014: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis," identifies and analyzes the full spectrum of vendors developing integrated LTE silicon solutions. The report profiles 31 key vendors and analyses almost 120 different products and product families, identifying the key features and highlighting the advantages they hold for operators, basestation vendors, and handset manufacturers.

The report includes not only granular information on the components themselves, but also insights into how the overall market and ecosystem is developing.

Integrated solutions for LTE basestations are available from multiple companies, including Avago Technologies, Broadcom, Cavium, Freescale, Intel, Octasic, and Texas Instruments. These devices typically integrate DSP technology for the physical layer and ARM or MIPS processor cores for the higher-layer protocols and network interface. Separate RF devices can be sourced from Analog Devices, Lime Microsystems, Maxim and Texas Instruments.

Mid-range smartphones use integrated LTE handset devices. These devices integrate dual, quad or octal ARM or x86-based application processors with low-powered DSPs for the LTE multimode modem. Integrated handset devices are available from Broadcom, Marvell, Mediatek, Nvidia and Qualcomm. The most expensive smartphones and many tablets use separate application processors and LTE modem devices. Application processor vendors include Allwinner, Intel, Marvell, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Rockchip. Apple and Samsung have their own internal application processor designs. Altair, Datang, Ericsson, GCT, Sequans and Spreadtrum are shipping LTE baseband devices. These devices can be used in smartphones, tablets and other applications such as USB dongles. Many of these vendors also supply RF devices for handset applications.

The acceleration of LTE is enabling a mobile revolution. The combination of ubiquitous connectivity and high-speed data access will allow mobile carriers to meet customer expectations and grow revenue through new service delivery. This market is a huge opportunity for those vendors that can deliver integrated LTE silicon with the right feature set and those operators, telecom equipment manufacturers, and handset developers that select the right silicon partner.

— Simon Stanley, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading

This report, LTE Base Station & Handset Components 2014: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis costs $3,995 and is published in PDF format. The price includes an enterprise license covering all of the employees at the purchaser's company.

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