Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) and Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) have jointly announced that they have successfully tested the world’s first inter-company interoperability between Qualcomm’s Cat9 LTE (Category 9) MSM mobile chipsets and Ericsson’s LTE-A (LTE-Advanced) network infrastructure.
This test was done between the two companies in order to prove that interoperability is already possible on Cat9 hardware from both companies. Since, Qualcomm is both an infrastructure and client chipset company while Ericsson is only infrastructure since the company folded up the ST-Ericsson’s joint venture that produced competing products to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors.
The two companies were able to achieve the Cat9 450 Mbps speeds thanks to carrier aggregation (combining multiple frequencies/bands) that Qualcomm’s chipsets and Ericsson’s infrastructure are both capable of doing. Ericsson actually even tells us which hardware they accomplished this on, their RBS 6000 family of base stations for macro and small cell networks. Which means these are fairly small base stations and fairly short distance connections. Additionally, thanks to Ericsson’s specs of the RBS 6000, we know that Qualcomm and Ericsson used 60 MHz 3x carrier aggregation in order to deliver the Cat9 LTE speeds of 450 Mbps.
Qualcomm, unfortunately, doesn’t tell us which Snapdragon chipset this is that’s running the new 450 Mbps speeds, but they do say that it is a future chipset which could be something coming next year or something 2 or 3 years from now. We simply can’t know. But what we do know is that the carriers are very very unlikely to deliver anything anywhere near these speeds. The unfortunate reality, however, is that right now there are no carriers in the US even technically capable of delivering three 20 MHz different bands of LTE based on their spectrum allocation. And even if they had the spectrum holdings to enable Cat9 LTE with carrier aggregation, they wouldn’t even have the backend to support it.