Broadcom Raises The Bar, Makes Smallest Smartphone Modem Yet
February 12, 2013

Broadcom Raises The Bar, Makes Smallest Smartphone Modem Yet

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Semiconductor maker Broadcom unveiled on Tuesday the industry´s smallest LTE-Advanced modem built for smartphones and tablets. Designed for top-tier devices with 4G LTE connectivity, the Broadcom BCM21892 is 35 percent smaller than its competitors and can combine full cellular baseband with a world-band radio.

In addition to being the smallest modem in the industry to date, it could also cut power consumption by as much as 25 percent over current LTE chips, which in turn could also allow 4G phones and tablets to be created in smaller form factors, run longer and connect in more places.

The BCM21892 can offer LTE category 4 speeds of up to 150Mbps, while operating under any 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) network and doing the usual transitions between4G LTE, 3G and 2G Internet. The modem can further handle all the current standards including LTE FDD and TDD, LTE-Advanced with carrier integration, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA, Edge and GSM. It also offers Voice over LTE (VoLTE), which allows for high-definition calls over a mobile broadband connection.

“Broadcom's new 4G LTE modem combined with our Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC technologies gives OEMs all the communications technologies needed to build advanced devices that will offer consumers the features, speed and functionality they demand in their next smartphone purchase,” said Robert A. Rango, Broadcom executive vice president and general manager of the mobile and wireless group, in a statement. “Broadcom's 4G LTE modem will also help carriers drive new 4G LTE features, such as carrier aggregation, into commercial networks.”

The new chip could also make data rates of up to 150Mbps a possibility, while the boosted “wireless coexistence” support could help cut down on radio interference between LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Radios, allowing all three of the wireless technologies to better cooperate in the same location.

“4G LTE coverage is clearly seen as a competitive differentiator by carriers to meet consumer demand for better performance, and as network rollouts accelerate worldwide, manufacturers are responding with products for these markets,” said Peter Cooney of ABI Research. “Based on its success in executing and integrating baseband processors, Broadcom is well positioned to deliver the latest mobile broadband technologies for these next generation devices.”

Broadcom is now “sampling” the modem to early access customers, but full production isn´t expected until 2014. However, this could be just part of the bigger shift for Broadcom, which announced in January a deal with Apple to use its 802.11ac chips — sometimes referred to as 5G Wi-Fi — in this year´s line of Mac products.

Broadcom could be looking to take on Qualcomm, which has thus far dominated the LTE market with its chips.

“We think it is going to be a winner,” Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor said in an interview to All Things D on Tuesday.

McGregor noted while other companies have announced some chips targeting the low end of the market, Broadcom´s strategy is to produce products — such as the BCM21892 — that are aimed at the highest-end of the market.

“The real goal here is to create a product that really is a world chip for the flagship smartphones and tablets,” he added.

Broadcom will be showcasing its 4G LTE innovations at the upcoming Mobile World Congress Show in Barcelona later this month.