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China Mobile's LTE plans garner chipmaker interest

Posted: 18 Mar 2013  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:China Mobile  Marvell  LTE  modem solutions  iPhones 

Among those best-positioned to ride China Mobile's LTE wave early on are a handful of chip companies such as Qualcomm and Hi-Sense. Marvell hopes to join the club.

China Mobile recently announced plans to spend $6.7 billion this year to develop 4G technology. The announcement has triggered speculation that the company is finally getting ready to roll out Apple iPhones enabled for its network.

But setting iPhones aside, China Mobile's aggressive investment in 4G is also signalling another trend in China: the heated battle for multi-mode LTE chips. Among those best-positioned to ride China Mobile's LTE wave early on are a handful of chip companies such as Qualcomm and Hi-Sense, the latter joined at the hip to captive customer Huawei.

Marvell Technology, armed with the company's own well proven multi-mode LTE modem chips that includes TDD-LTE, FDD-LTE, WCDMA, TD-SCDMA and GPRS 2G, is also jockeying to join an elite group of multi-mode LTE modem suppliers in China. (See Quad-core SoC, LTE slug it out in the mobile arena.)

While the industry often views Marvell's smartphone chip business tied to the future fate of BlackBerry, it rarely pays enough attention to the Santa Clara-based company's aggressively forward-looking strategy. In particular, little discussed is Marvell's plan to roll the dice on China's LTE market.

Ivan Lee, vice president of mobile products at Marvell, in an interview with EE Times, said, "A lot of people will be surprised to see our five-mode LTE solutions [starting to make inroads in handsets] this year."

Indeed, Marvell already offers a multi-mode LTE thin-modem, called PXA1802. The modem, already cleared by global certification processes, is designed to pair easily with Marvell's competitors' apps processors as well. ZTE, for example, is said to be launching a new smartphone in the next quarter using Marvell's PXA1802 combined with a third-party apps processor.

Marvell is also gung-ho about the introduction of a new SoC—yet to be announced – that combines Marvell's five-mode LTE modem and ARM A7-based quad-core apps processor in a single chip. This will be an LTE version of the follow on to the PXA1088, a quad-core 'world phone' targeted at the 3G market, which Marvell announced last month before the Mobile World Congress.

The new SoC, which includes LTE features to make it five-mode, is scheduled for sampling in the second quarter. "You will see phones using this single-chip SoC before the end of this year," said Lee. Marvell is confident the company can win the multi-mode LTE battle because "we have both a mature five-mode LTE modem and a mature apps processor," said Lee.

Missing from Marvell's five-mode LTE modem solutions, however, is CDMA. Lee explained that plenty of carriers around the globe do not require CDMA. "Even in the United States, Verizon announced its plan to migrate from CDMA to LTE," he added. Although such a transition is not likely to happen overnight, Marvell's five-mode LTE chip is "a device you can use not only in China, but in North America and Europe—pretty much everywhere," said Lee.


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