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Mobile Device Silicon
Complimentary Advisory Report

LTE Chips: A Leading Indicator
of Mainstream Adoption

| Jul 8, 2010 | Mobile Device Silicon
| Analyst: Jeff Ogle, Senior Analyst, Mobile Device Silicon

Click here to download report (100 KB PDF)

Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a mobile broadband system designed to deliver multimedia services and is already creating significant mobile industry hype. Technically, LTE is a 3.9G technology that is marketed as 4G as defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). As a result, 4G operates under a name trademarked by one of the associations within the 3GPP partnership, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). Akin to LTE, Mobile WiMAX is also branded as 4G technology today and both are on the path toward fulfilling ITU-sanctioned IMT Advanced requirements that define pure 4G capabilities such as multi-carrier transmission support and all-IP network switching. Currently LTE is designed to theoretically provide downlink peak data rates of up to 100 Mbps, uplink data peaks of up to 50 Mbps, and radio access network (RAN) round-trip times of less than 10 ms. The need for these levels of bandwidth within mobile networks is driven by a multitude of factors including burgeoning adoption of smart consumer devices (beyond the usual USB modems/aircards), such as smartphones and tablets, which are becoming widely available and support an expanding range of multimedia applications.

Like most emerging technologies that are evolving, LTE itself will continue to be driven by standards and specifications that are also evolving. Modifications and revisions - typically on a year’s time horizon or longer - are ironed out in an iterative process of releases that each generally carries new functionality to support new applications, services and fixes. At some stage in a successful standards process, a critical mass of vendors can jump in to begin their product development cycles.

For LTE this came to fruition with 3GPP Release 8 in January 2009, when the specification was considered stable enough for vendors and the development community to begin implementations in silicon that in turn allowed OEMs/ODMs, such as mobile phone and mobile Internet device (MID) manufacturers, to produce LTE-enabled handsets, to connect to wireless networks supporting LTE and begin trialing and launching commercial services. The latest iteration, Advanced LTE, is currently being standardized on 3GPP Release 10, targeted to be released in March 2011, but again LTE advanced retail products will likely take a couple more years to materialize in earnest. The availability of the LTE silicon devices is a key step in this process and by examining the competing vendor’s offerings and product roadmaps in this area, some insight into future LTE/LTE Advanced capabilities can be gained.


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