Business, Hardware

Broadcom Releases New 4G LTE Platform for Smartphones

Broadcom today announced their new ‘turnkey LTE platform’ which they are claiming to target at the $300 smartphone price segment. This platform essentially two different SoCs that they have that are both going to feature LTE and will be pin compatible with each other. The M320 LTE SoC is the dual core variant of this platform, which is pin compatible with the M340 LTE SoC, which is their quad core variant of the same LTE platform. This LTE platform will be capable of category 4 LTE speeds, which will make it able to reach speeds of up to 150 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up. This announcement comes after Broadcom acquired Renesas Mobile, Renesas’ LTE division which they had purchased from Nokia but unsuccessfully utilized it.

Today’s announcements are directly a result of that acquisition, since Renesas Mobile’s expertise was utilized to make today’s announcement possible as the M320 (and now the M340) were based on a Rensas design. Broadcom has mostly been absent in the LTE-enabled market which has been dominated primarily by Qualcomm. But, Broadcom brings yet another LTE option for manufacturers in addition to Intel, however, they offer LTE integration unlike Intel. Nvidia also has their own LTE, but they remain tight lipped about the status of their Icera i500 modem and the Tegra4i with LTE modem integrated into the SoC. Right now, it seems, Qualcomm is still far ahead of their competitors even though they appear to be slowly catching up to speed. Sure, the new LTE chipsets from Broadcom aren’t really competitive with Qualcomm’s latest Cat6 LTE chipsets with carrier aggregation, but when you remove those features the Broadcom chipset becomes a bit more competitive with Qualcomm’s lesser chipsets.

I believe that today’s Broadcom announcement is designed to be a direct competitor to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 chipset. We’ll see how it actually competes against Qualcomm’s chipset, or even Mediatek’s. I suspect that this is going to heat up the battle for the middle, the $299 smartphone arena where Category 4 and VoLTE are good enough to keep carriers and device makers happy for this generation. The M320 was announced at CES and the M340 was announced today as part of the platform, and I believe that both chipsets are based on ARM’s Cortex A9 chipset. The GPU should remain the same between both SoCs, namely PowerVR’s current generation 5XT GPU which should enable decent 1080P playback performance.

They also announced that they will officially be showing their Cat6 LTE products at MWC in addition to the fact that the M340 LTE SoC will be available in the first half of this year, while the M320 LTE SoC is already shipping. Hopefully for Broadcom, the Renesas acquisition and LTE restructuring will help the company re-enter the mobile segment effectively and competitively. Because the truth is that right now Qualcomm’s dominance in the Android market is mainly being challenged by MediaTek and possibly Intel, more competition is always better for everyone.