CES 2011: AT&T Wants Cheaper LTE RF

LAS VEGAS -- 2011 International CES -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) says that one of its goals for 2011 is to have "a cost-effective LTE radio module" for vendors wanting to deliver new devices as the operator deploys its 4G network.

Cameron Coursey, associate vice president of product realization with the emerging devices organization at AT&T, touched on Long Term Evolution (LTE) during his talk at the AT&T Developer’s Conference here Wednesday.

In response to a question to the floor from OEM device maker Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) about the carrier's 4G roadmap, Coursey intimated that the cost of radio modules could still be a factor for LTE device vendors.

"There are still a few rocks in the road for LTE," Coursey said, adding that simplification may be one of the keys to reducing some costs.

"This will mean leaving out bells and whistles," Coursey suggested. He didn't specify exactly what that entailed but likely options in the radio module include supporting fewer LTE radio bands in the chipset. AT&T is using 700 MHz for its LTE network, so early devices might sacrifice international LTE roaming capabilities for cheaper, nationally orientated products.

Why this matters
3G HSPA chipsets hit average prices around $15 to $20 in 2009, while WiMax silicon approached that level late in 2010, according to chip vendors. LTE chipsets are presently averaging over $100. It is in both vendors' and operators' interest to reduce these costs to cut the end cost of the device and trim subsidies.

For more
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— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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