Competition heats up in 4G LTE processor and modem chip set market

Date: 06/03/2015
While the mobile communications industry is developing 5G at fast rate, 4G LTE is implementation around the world is also happening at faster rate. There going to be hardly any mid or high-range smart phone without supporting 4G LTE feature.

For the semiconductor vendors who are into this business, designing a ultra integrated SOC chipset supporting 4G LTE including LTE Advanced Category 10 service is important. There are multiple vendors offering modern chipsets with 4G LTE.

The leading vendor of mobile phone baseband chipsets Qualcomm is offering Snapdragon 618, 620 from the Snapdragon 600 series and Snapdragon 415 and 425 from the Snapdragon 400 series integrated with advanced LTE.
The 415 to have X5 LTE modem offering download / upload speeds of 150 / 50 Mbps, where as the Snapdragon 425, 618 and 620 chipsets to have X8 LTE modem providing download / upload speeds of 300 / 100 Mbps.

Qualcomm Gobi 9x45 modem which is known as the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 LTE modem is the latest discrete LTE modem chip from Qualcomm offering high throughput speeds of 450 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload ( Category 10). This chip is suggested for automotive infotainment systems and telematics in cars.
Qualcomm remains the best vendor in this domain due to its ability to integrate modems inside its mobile phone SOC chips. Another advantage Qualcomm offers to its customers is through a program called Qualcomm reference design, where mobile phone designers can design products faster.

MediaTek's new MT6753 chipset features WorldMode LTE modem making the smart phones connect to Cat 4 LTE, TDD LTE, 3GPP, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA, and EDGE, plus support for CDMA2000 1x/EVDO. There are lot more Mediatek application processor and LTE modem integrated chips, but the speed of LTE Modem is below category 4.

Intel's latest LTE modem chipset XMM 7360 support LTE Advanced Category 10 service with download speeds up to 450 Mbps. At Mobile World Congress, Intel has demonstrated its latest 4G and 5G chips. The new modern chipset is expected to be available in the market in second half of 2015. Intel has a stake in Spreadtrum, one of the leading baseband chip designer from China. Intel can leverage its relationship with Spreadtrum to target budget smart phone OEM vendors in China.

Another leading mobile SoC chip vendor Samsung’s Exynos processor to have an integrated LTE-A modem. Samsung is working on its own Cat. 10 LTE modem to introduce along with the Exynos 7420. In future Samsung to integrate both in single chip.

China-based HiSilicon's mobile SoC Kirin 920 is an octa-core processor integrated with an LTE Cat6 modem with up to 300Mbps download speed. Huawei buys much of the HiSilicon's chips.

Marvell has announced ARMADA Mobile PXA1826, a 5-mode 4G LTE Release 10 modem chipset, targeted for the growing LTE market supporting carrier aggregation. Marvell ARMADA Mobile PXA1826 supports Multi-mode LTE R10 CAT7 supporting TD-LTE, FDD-LTE, TD-SCDMA, WCDMA and GSM.

To tell you about another interesting vendor in this space; GCT Semiconductor. GCT was started with focus on WiMAX and now covering whole range of high speed mobile communication including 4G LTE.

GCT Semiconductor uses a technology called direct conversion architecture, CMOS RF technology, which was developed by its founder Dr K H Lee. RF CMOS is a version of normal mixed-mode CMOS that includes on-chip inductors and varactors. This technology helps GCT Semiconductor to develop single chip SOC packing both baseband processor and RF which is integrating RF, MAC and PHY in single die. UMC is the foundry partner of GCT semiconductor.

GCT says its LTE solutions include an LTE baseband, a high performance processor, a transceiver and range of peripherals for connectivity and multimedia. The integrated radio transceiver provides a configurable direct conversion multi-bandwidth functionality supporting all LTE bandwidths.

The interesting products from GCT Semiconductor includes GDM7243Q: Advanced FDD-TDD LTE Cat. 5/6/7, GDM7243M: Multi-Mode FDD-TDD LTE + WiMAX, GDM7243S: FDD-TDD LTE, Cat. 4 and GDM7240: FDD-LTE, Cat. 3.

The increased number of vendors in this hot area clearly tells the level of competition going on. Qualcomm which has more than 50% share both in the smart phone processor market, as well as baseband chip market facing tough competition to retain the same level of shares in 2015 and 2016.

Author: Srinivasa Reddy N
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