Qualcomm unveiled the last bit of information about its forthcoming Snapdragon 820 chipset Tuesday morning in Hong Kong: the wireless modem -- its fastest yet for LTE and WiFi and the first to combine the technologies for LTE-Unlicensed deployments.
"We like to summarize the feature set in three key points: most advanced LTE connectivity available, most advanced WiFi and the best convergence between licensed and unlicensed, LTE and WiFi," explains Sherif Hanna, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) senior manager of marketing.
More specifically, the newly upgraded X12 LTE modem, revealed at the Qualcomm 3G/LTE Summit in Hong Kong, is the first to support LTE Category 12 in the downlink and Category 13 in the uplink, promising 33% and 200% respective speed bumps over its predecessor, the 810, with 600 Mbit/s peak downlink and 150 Mbit/s peak uplink.
The processor will support 4x4 Multi-Input Multi-Output (MIMO) to double download throughput speeds on a single LTE carrier, Uplink Data Compression (UDC) to accelerate web page loading times and Advanced Closed Loop Antenna Tuning to dynamically optimize RF performance, reducing dropped calls, improving cell edge throughput and lowering power consumption.
On the WiFi front, it supports 802.11ac WiFi using 2x2 MU-MIMO, and multi-gigabit 802.11ad WiFi, as well as improved performance monitoring and network selection for voice-over WiFi (VoWiFi) and voice-over LTE (VoLTE). (See NTT DoCoMo Launches VoLTE on Qualcomm's Snapdragon.)
The chip is also the first to support LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and LTE + WiFi link aggregation (LWA), which Qualcomm has been championing -- and defending against critics that fear it will hog the unlicensed spectrum it operates in. (See LTE-U Is Nicer to WiFi Than WiFi – Qualcomm.)
The 820 will support the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's Release 10 version of LTE-U, which means it won't feature the listen-before-talk (LBT) protocol for spectrum sharing, but Prakash Sangam, Qualcomm's director of technical marketing, maintains that the chipmaker's extensive testing indicates it co-exists well with WiFi. (See Qualcomm Wants FCC to Stay Out of LTE-U Fray and T-Mobile Expects LTE-U to Feature Listen-Before-Talk.)
"It listens to all the WiFi access points in the vicinity and shares the spectrum clearly with the existing WiFi and access points out there," he says. Small cells that support LTE-U are also starting to be announced, and commercial deployments are expected early next year. (See Qualcomm Aims MuLTEfire at Unlicensed Bands and Ericsson Preps LTE-U for Verizon, T-Mob & SK Telecom.)
Qualcomm will ship two versions of the modem -- one integrated with the Snapdragon 820 for premium smartphones and tablets, and a standalone X12 modem for devices like mobile hotspots and laptops. Qualcomm expects the first devices based on it to be commercially available in the first half of 2016. The company also introduced the Snapdragon 430 and the Snapdragon 617, designed for mid-range mobile devices, on Tuesday. (See Qualcomm Brings LTE Speeds to Mid-Range SoCs.)
"These [tiers] are available because we're able -- as Qualcomm and Snapdragon -- to really take advantage of taking all these technologies, integrating them together and deploying them at a scale globally that lets OEMs take advantage of core technologies," says Qualcomm Director of Marketing Mark Shedd. (See Qualcomm Paves Way for Sub-$100 4G Phones.)
Qualcomm needs the 820 and its lower-tier brethren to be successful across the globe as its predecessor, the 810, was plagued by thermal issues. The chip giant's semiconductor business also has been slowing in recent months, and it announced a restructuring plan in July to cut $1.4 billion in spending, while also lowering its outlook for its semiconductor business amid increased competition and antitrust probes. (See Qualcomm Restructures to Cut $1.4B in Costs , Qualcomm Faces Major Job Cuts – Reports and Qualcomm to Pay $975M in China Antitrust Spat.)
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading