Nvidia continues to make up for lost time when it comes to producing an integrated processor/modem platform for smartphones, chasing after Qualcomm's stronghold. The company has already upgraded the radio element of its Tegra 4i all-in-one chip, before that has even come to market commercially, and is now promising Category 4 LTE support, which means downlink speeds up to 150Mbps.
The company was demonstrating the beefed-up Tegra 4i at the CTIA show this week, going up against rivals which have also announced Cat-4 products, such as Qualcomm itself, Broadcom and LTE-only specialist Altair.
Handset makers are increasingly looking for integrated platforms, even for high end models, to save on cost, power consumption and internal space. Chip suppliers on both sides – baseband specialists and processor-only vendors – have been racing to fill in their missing pieces and chase the integrated leaders, notably Qualcomm.
Nvidia did this by acquiring UK software defined modem innovator Icera, whose technology has already been implemented alongside its parent's Tegra app processor in handsets from ZTE. However, it becomes far more strategic in the Tegra 4i, a fully integrated offering.
The US company said Icera's software defined architecture was showing its full value as it had allowed an upgrade to Cat-4 in firmware alone. Operators are stepping up the pressure on chip and device makers to supply this capability, as they get ready to upgrade their networks to support 150Mbps speeds.
“It's a bit disappointing that the device ecosystem is not moving as fast as the network,” Mansoor Hanif, director of network integration and LTE at UK market leader EE, said in a recent interview. EE will make the move to 150Mbps speeds this year, and will implement carrier aggregation, an important element of the LTE-Advanced family of updates.
“We have an opportunity to be one of the first operators in the world to roll out carrier aggregation," he said, adding that EE would work with fellow LTE-A supporters such as NTT DoCoMo to drive the device ecosystem.