Qualcomm beats the crowd to 20-Mbps HSPA+

Rethink Research
27 Aug 2008

It wasn't so long ago that we were all telling ourselves that with a 3G handset we would be able to access the internet and do anything that a wired connection could. With the arrival of HSDPA, that began to become sort of true. As we get to faster and faster speeds, it will be completely true. HSDPA creates a single shared outward data channel at the base station.

Now Qualcomm, at its annual analyst briefing conference in San Diego, has demonstrated an extension to that technology HSPA+, with a phone connection working at 20 Mbps in a single 5 MHz radio channel.

Qualcomm, so long considered the evil empire in cellular, heaping huge royalty fees due to basic communication breakthroughs on both chip designs and handsets, has taken the HSDPA chip market by the throat during the past two years, as almost all of the cellular operators in the Western World have upgraded to at least the 3.6 Mbps version of HSDPA and many are ready for the next step.

The settlement between Nokia and Qualcomm over royalty payments is still reverberating around the cellular industry. It means that Qualcomm can finally offer chips to Nokia, and Nokia will no longer have much reason to limit its handset chip purchases to its favorite Texas Instruments, and its recent additions of Broadcom, ST Micro and Infineon.

In the rest of the handset market Qualcomm has taken more than a 50% market share in HSDPA chips, but in the Nokia world, which now comprises 41% of the world's shipped handsets, all those HSxPA baseband products and SoCs (system on a chip) chips are set to come from ST Micro, in the process of merging its wireless operations with NXP. But Nokia may find that these new chips from Qualcomm are irresistible over the near term, and could dump its European partner in order to get this new capability quickly, for its wireless internet ambitions.

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