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Qualcomm, HiSilicon, China drive unified LTE

February 28, 2012 // Rick Merritt

Qualcomm, HiSilicon, China drive unified LTE

The mobile industry took a few small but significant steps toward the holy grail of a unified technology at the Mobile World Congress 2012.

Qualcomm and HiSilicon announced multi-mode chipsets that support both the FDD and TD flavors of the LTE. Separately, China Mobile pledged to launch a converged TD/FDD LTE network this year in Hong Kong and Vodaphone expressed support for the technology.

To date, global carriers have used two or three flavors of cellular technology. The move to a converged TD/FDD LTE network represents the current best hope for ma single global standard.

Currently AT&T and Verizon have led global deployments of LTE, using FDD technology, in part because it was ready first. But operators say the converged approach more efficiently uses scarce operator spectrum and eases global roaming issues.

China Mobile, which has 650 million subscribers, is leading the charge toward unification. Ironically, it also helped fragment current standards by insisting on its own approach of TD-SCDMA for 3G nets, a technology seen as largely a failure on the global stage, and the follow on TD-LTE for 4G.

Even today, China Mobile is still pursuing a split road map of TD-LTE and converged TD/FDD networks.

In a speech at the Mobile World Congress here, Li Yue, chief executive of China Mobile, pledged to have 20,000 base stations capable of running the TD-LTE by the end of the year with commercial operations starting next year in as many as three cities. It currently operates pilots in six cities with about 1,000 TD-LTE base stations.

So far, 3 Scandinavia is the only operator to deploy a FDD/TD network. The operator which serves two million subscribers staged a soft launch of its technology in Stockholm in December.

Operators in India and the Middle east have also pledged support for TD/FDD nets. So far, AT&T and Version have only said they are studying the technology.

Jorgen Askeroth, chief technology officer of 3 Scandinavia, said the technology is performing better than expected and is more efficient in its use of spectrum than separate TD and FDD nets. In addition, he said, several chip makers including ST-Ericsson are planning multiband chips.

Qualcomm showed a 28 nm multiband chip set. HiSilicon, the chip division of Huawei, showed a 40 nm chip. Examples of both chips were encased in glass diamonds at an event here promoting the move to a converged net.

“To hear the commitment China Mobile is making to the advancement of TD/FDD is significant,” said Craig Ehrlich, chairman of GTI, a trade group promoting the converged network and host of an event on the technology here.

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