Maintaining momentum

Qualcomm's vice president of business development for the Middle East and North Africa, Jay Srage, looks at the evolution of mobile broadband technology.

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By  Jay Srage Published  April 25, 2009

Qualcomm's vice president of business development for the Middle East and North Africa, Jay Srage, looks at the evolution of mobile broadband technology.

The power of wireless continues to capture the imagination of people everywhere, and our industry has much to be proud of. Over the past year we've seen impressive traction for smartphones, continuing excitement over USB dongles and 3G notebooks, and a growing consumer awareness of the benefits of high-speed wireless connectivity.

Over 735 million people worldwide already connect to 3G services, and this number will continue to grow as the world's two largest mobile markets, China and India, launch 3G networks this year.

Mobile broadband is the key to enabling the much-discussed convergence of wireless communications, computing and personal electronic devices, taking our industry way beyond the traditional mobile handset. - Jay Srage, Qualcomm’s vice president of business development for the Middle East and North Africa

Mobile broadband is the key to enabling the much-discussed convergence of wireless communications, computing and personal electronic devices, taking our industry way beyond the traditional mobile handset. HSPA has become the world's fastest growing wireless technology, providing compelling evidence that mobile broadband is truly coming of age.

We are now witnessing operators upgrade to HSPA+, since it doubles capacity and delivers higher data rates while leveraging their current network investments. The challenge now is how to best meet the growing mass-market demand for mobile broadband in the future. So what comes next?

When combined with evolved 3G mobile broadband, LTE will allow for a leap in the number of users and new devices connected to data services, providing an efficient path into new spectrum, higher peak rates and improved user experiences.

The door is opening for our vision of a totally connected world where all kinds of devices communicate seamlessly, inspiring a growing array of new types of connected services. The success of 3G mobile broadband and the industry's excitement about LTE both validate Qualcomm's belief that the mobile world and the internet are most powerful when brought together.

As operators expand their portfolio of mobile broadband offerings, our goal is to enable them the flexibility to deploy the mix of technologies that work best for them based on their market strategies, existing networks, spectrum assets and opportunities. To meet that goal, we are heavily investing in new mobile broadband technologies such as HSPA+ and LTE and working with key industry partners to bring a full range of multimode devices to market. In fact, multimode chipset solutions are a cornerstone to our strategy.

In the first half of 2009 we will sample the industry's first fully standards-compliant multimode LTE/ HSPA/ EV-DO chipset. Combined with our latest RF solution, it will support these technologies across the full range of commercial frequency bands.

For many years, the results of technology advancements were often measured in exponential terms. For example, the transition from analog to digital resulted in a tenfold increase in capacity. Driven to achieve new levels of performance, engineers focused heavily on finding new ways to improve the radio link, continually evolving the air interface to new heights.

However, we are now facing the theoretical limits of the air link and new evolutions are netting less dramatic gains in terms of bits/sec/Hz. Given the immutable laws of information theory and physics, the question now is how to continue the momentum that we have all worked so hard to achieve.

There are many mature and powerful tools now available to both HSPA+ and LTE platforms that provide significant capacity enhancements. These include interference cancellation and advanced antenna techniques like MIMO and beam forming. In future, one of the most promising methods of increasing performance and enhancing user experience is to focus on the network topology, optimising the physical layout of network infrastructure to improve the more relevant metric of bits/sec/Hz/km2.

The use of picocells, femtocells and wireless relays in combination with appropriate resource scheduling and interference management have the potential to dramatically improve user experience and overall network capacity.

Voice and data connectivity have fueled the growth of our industry for the past quarter century. To support this growth networks have expanded both in capacity and coverage. Continents are now practically blanketed with radio signals, making it possible for relatively low power devices to be connected. Why not connect everything then?

Extremely low power devices like health sensors may need a nearby node such as a cell phone, small low power devices may need to help each other via multiple hops to reach the destination, and some devices may be more effective just connecting directly with each other, for example peer-to-peer. These are exciting areas of research, and I have no doubt that we can maintain the momentum.

Given the recent successes of HSPA, the availability of HSPA+, the advent of LTE, and other exciting new things on the horizon our industry has the opportunity to flourish and prosper in even the toughest of economic times.

With more than a billion units shipped worldwide annually, the mobile phone has emerged as the world's most popular device, surpassing sales of other seemingly ubiquitous consumer devices like televisions and computers. For people in every corner of the globe, the mobile phone has moved from a luxury to a necessity, increasingly serving as a "personal gateway" that is always there, providing a highly tailored connection to the people and the data that matters most to them.

The dialog about what comes next continues to evolve, but we believe the future holds considerable opportunity for all of us in the wireless community.

Together with our many partners worldwide, we are determined to enable the evolution of mobile broadband and the growth of compelling wireless services, continually investing in R&D that will make our vision of seamless and ubiquitous connectivity a reality for everyone and everything.

Backwards compatibility

In February Qualcomm announced that it had expanded its device chipset roadmap to include Long Term Evolution (LTE). It says that its three multi-mode "Mobile Data Modem" chipsets will deliver significant flexibility to the industry by supporting LTE, as well as other 3GPP and 3GPP2 standards, while the MDM9 series chipsets will allow UMTS and CDMA2000 operators to upgrade to future LTE services while preserving backward compatibility to their existing 3G UMTS and CDMA2000 networks.

"Qualcomm is in a very unique position with LTE, being one of the very few companies that will be able to offer multi-mode solutions that deliver an upgrade path for operators looking to complement their existing 3G networks with LTE," said Steve Mollenkopf, senior vice president of product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. "We are pleased that we will be able to leverage our industry-leading technology position to offer LTE solutions to our customers."

The new family of MDM9-series chipsets will support UMTS, HSPA+, EV-DO Rev. B, UMB as well as LTE. The LTE solutions are scheduled to sample in the second quarter of 2009.

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