LTE is fast, but it can be a lot faster. Today, Broadcom announced that it is developing a 28nm LTE modem that dramatically reduces the size and power footprint compared to previous chips. On top of that, it implements LTE Category 4, so theoretical download speeds of 150Mbps and uploads at 51Mbps are possible. Sadly, consumers won’t see devices using this LTE modem until at least next year.
The official press release for the Broadcom BCM21892 clearly says that this is an LTE-Advanced modem, but this is kind of confusing the issue. Hardware categories one through five of LTE equipment are outlined in 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 8. LTE-Advanced, categories six through eight, are part of 3GPP Release 10. This modem does use parts of the Release 10 specs involving carrier aggregation, but don’t for a second think that this is some crazy next-generation mobile networking.
The best download speed I’ve ever seen on my Verizon iPhone 5 is just over 40Mbps, and upload speed maxed out at just under 16Mbps. While faster LTE chips are clearly a good thing, the infrastructure needs to be just as fast to take advantage of it. Hopefully by next year we’ll see faster LTE networks.
This chip isn’t just hype, though. The power management implementation should see a power reduction of over 25% when sending/receiving data to/from cell towers. Voice over LTE (VoLTE), a system to get better audio quality on cell calls, uses 40% less power than current implementations of voice over Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA). If the US telecoms ever decide to use it, we could see significantly better battery life.
Perhaps most importantly, this 28nm modem will take up roughly 35% less space than earlier LTE modems. As Samsung and Apple fight for super-thin-and-light phones, this reduction in size could mean more marketshare in phones and tablets for Broadcom. Qualcomm announced a 28nm LTE modem way back in February of 2011, so it essentially has had a monopoly on that space. More competition will make for better and cheaper components, so it’s good to see Broadcom finally taking the next step.
This isn’t a huge change in mobile broadband, but it is a useful next step to faster LTE speeds. Category 8 LTE equipment — full-fledged LTE-Advanced — tops out at a theoretical 3000Mbps, so let’s hope this release will help the industry reach that point faster. Until then, at least we’ll have smaller phones with longer battery life.
Now read: What is LTE-Advanced?
[Image credit: translated10]