New Qualcomm LTE chipset could bring truly global iPhone with support for China Mobile

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple supplier Qualcomm on Thursday announced a new "global LTE" front end solution that operates on 40 bands, including all existing LTE networks, which could usher in a truly global iPhone that even supports the obscure TD-SCDMA network used by the world's largest carrier China Mobile.

Teardown Logic Board 2
The iPhone 5 uses Qualcomm's MDM9615M LTE modem (blue) and RTR8600 Multi-band/mode RF transceiver (purple).
Source: iFixit


According to Qualcomm the RF360 Front End Solution offers the first comprehensive system to address LTE fragmentation, allowing handset makers like Apple to roll out a single smartphone that supports all 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and LTE Advanced. Currently, the iPhone comes in three variants due to limitations with existing wireless chipsets, including two GSM models and one CDMA version.

The RF360 chipset is "designed to mitigate this problem while improving RF performance," and offers support for all seven cellular modes, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE. If deployed in a next-generation iPhone, Apple could launch a single "universal" handset instead of the company's current three-model lineup.

Of particular interest is the chipset's TD-SCDMA operation, as the standard is used by the world's largest cellular provider by subscribership China Mobile. While Apple has yet to ink a deal with the telecom, many analysts believe a partnership will be a major boon for the continued growth of Apple's iOS platform.




Despite not being an official Apple partner carrier, China Mobile reportedly has some 15 million iPhone users on its slower 2G network, suggesting demand for the handset would be high.

A recent study of the Chinese market showed that Apple may be able to triple its addressable market in the region if it launched a low-cost iPhone that supported China Mobile's network. Currently, the iPhone 5 accounts for some ten percent of the country's mobile market with China Telecom and China Unicom being the only two providers to carry the handset.

In addition to the wide range of supported bands, the RF360 chipset includes a dynamic antenna matching tuner, envelope power tracker, integrated power amplifier/antenna switch and the RF POP 3D RF packing solution. Qualcomm is anticipating a second-half 2013 launch for products using the chipset, around the same time as Apple's usual iPhone refresh cycle.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    1) It's about time. With dozens of LTE operating bands the situation was worse than having just CDMA and GSM on a handful of bands each.

    2) I can't wait to find out how this works and if it's less power efficient since it's no longer a dedicated chip to band implementation.

    3) RF360. I see what you did there Qualcomm. Nicely done.
  • Reply 2 of 44


    So would this New Chip mean: 


     


    1. SIM Cards on Verizon, the same way as ATT's GSM, so that one could just buy such SIM Card when traveling outside the USA, and not have to pay International Roaming? 


     


    2. Will there finally be Simultaneous Voice and Data on Verizon iPhones? 


     


    My instinct is that the Answer to both Qs will be NO! The excuse given by Verizon and other CDMA carriers will be - we want to preserve Backward Compatibility, so that if a Customer is in the are where there is no Latest LTE, we need to offer them Backward Compatibility to 3G or even Older 2G, which would be still on CDMA! 


     


    It would great to be pleasantly surprised, and see that whole CDMA GSM and other Sub-Flavors to go away, and have a Truly One Phone for One World, but… the Carriers around the world want to control their markets, and, no matter how powerful Apple will be, the Carriers will fight back, and will include some kind of restrictions! 


     


    We can only guess why China Mobile, The Biggest Carrier there, still didn't make a Deal with Apple! It's logical to conclude that there are some Restrictions, Limitations being negotiated...


     


    The Speeds and Pricing Plans with all their Data Caps in the USA will be another battle ground!

  • Reply 3 of 44
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    macologist wrote: »
    So would this New Chip mean: 

    1. SIM Cards on Verizon, the same way as ATT's GSM, so that one could just buy such SIM Card when traveling outside the USA, and not have to pay International Roaming? 

    2. Will there finally be Simultaneous Voice and Data on Verizon iPhones? 

    My instinct is that the Answer to both Qs will be NO! The excuse given by Verizon and other CDMA carriers will be - we want to preserve Backward Compatibility, so that if a Customer is in the are where there is no Latest LTE, we need to offer them Backward Compatibility to 3G or even Older 2G, which would be still on CDMA! 

    It would great to be pleasantly surprised, and see that whole CDMA GSM and other Sub-Flavors to go away, and have a Truly One Phone for One World, but… the Carriers around the world want to control their markets, and, no matter how powerful Apple will be, the Carriers will fight back, and will include some kind of restrictions! 

    We can only guess why China Mobile, The Biggest Carrier there, still didn't make a Deal with Apple! It's logical to conclude that there are some Restrictions, Limitations being negotiated...

    The Speeds and Pricing Plans with all their Data Caps in the USA will be another battle ground!

    1) The iPhone 5 has a SIM card slot on all models. On the Verizon iPhone 5 it's unlock so you can use GSM/UMTS/LTE on other carriers, but the LTE is currently limited due to the operating bands.

    2) SV&D will require a third antenna which is why some LTE phones on Verizon have it but the iPhone 5 does not. I think there is a good chance we'll see it this year (or maybe I just really miss it from switching from AT&T last year).

    3) GSM and CDMA will still be around for a long time. They are part of the chipsets and use very little power compared to newer standards. Think of 802.11b still part of WiFi. Think of how long carrier kept AMPS around.

    4) I think China Mobiles has a much better hand than Apple and I think Apple will do special things to secure that market. Perhaps that is, in part, investing in Qualcomm to create the RF360 posthaste or creating a cheaper handset since subsidized devices aren't common.
  • Reply 4 of 44
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    4) I think China Mobiles has a much better hand than Apple and I think Apple will do special things to secure that market. Perhaps that is, in part, investing in Qualcomm to create the RF360 posthaste or creating a cheaper handset since subsidized devices aren't common.


    Apple could also come up with a new "must have" device such that China Mobile starts losing subscribers by not having it. There's more than one way to skin a Chat.

  • Reply 5 of 44


    I thought the issue with supporting many cell phone bands is broader than just baseband chipset support. Different bands also need different support components including power amplifiers and antennae which add cost, space, power, and complexity making a true world phone for 2G through 4G very difficult.

  • Reply 6 of 44
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,747member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    1) ...that even supports the obscure TD-SCDMA network...


    2) ...used by the world's largest carrier China Mobile.

     


    These statements do not fit together very well...

  • Reply 7 of 44

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ltcommander.data View Post


    I thought the issue with supporting many cell phone bands is broader than just baseband chipset support. Different bands also need different support components including power amplifiers and antennae which add cost, space, power, and complexity making a true world phone for 2G through 4G very difficult.



    That's the point of this chipset. One chipset, one set of support components. No problem. 


     


    On the physical side however, is the antenna. I'll let the experts discuss whether this is an issue. 

  • Reply 8 of 44
    [B]CORRECTION[/B]: the iPhone 5 currently comes in [B]FOUR[/B] models, not three.

    [URL]http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3939?viewlocale=de_at&locale=de_at[/URL]

    iPhone 5 GSM for US, Canada and Puerto Rico
    iPhone 5 CDMA for Verizon and Spint
    iPhone 5 GSM for Asia and other international use
    iPhone 5 CDMA for China
  • Reply 9 of 44

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    2) SV&D will require a third antenna which is why some LTE phones on Verizon have it but the iPhone 5 does not. I think there is a good chance we'll see it this year (or maybe I just really miss it from switching from AT&T last year).

     


     


    For the record actually all LTE phones on Verizon support SV&D with LTE except the iPhone 5. It would need a second cellular antenna (one for CDMA and one for LTE) not 3. 3 (2 CDMA, one GSM) would allow it to do V&D over 3G, which only a handful of other Verizon LTE phones can handle. Obviously this is just how Apple chose to handle its integrated antenna design. With VoLTE launching on Verizon later this year, you're right in that it will probably go away in the next version. 

  • Reply 10 of 44
    I thought the issue with supporting many cell phone bands is broader than just baseband chipset support. Different bands also need different support components including power amplifiers and antennae which add cost, space, power, and complexity making a true world phone for 2G through 4G very difficult.

    Qualcomm announced a considerable amount of innovation actually. The original press release does, in fact, address your concerns:

    Dynamic Antenna Matching Tuner (QFE15xx) – The world’s first modem-assisted and configurable antenna-matching technology extends antenna range to operate over 2G/3G/4G LTE frequency bands, from 700-2700 MHz. This, in conjunction with modem control and sensor input, dynamically improves the antenna’s performance and connection reliability in the presence of physical signal impediments, like the user’s hand.

    Envelope Power Tracker (QFE11xx) – The industry’s first modem-assisted envelope tracking technology designed for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, this chip is designed to reduce overall thermal footprint and RF power consumption by up to 30 percent, depending on the mode of operation. By reducing power and heat dissipation, it enables OEMs to design thinner smartphones with longer battery life.

    Integrated Power Amplifier / Antenna Switch (QFE23xx) – The industry’s first chip featuring an integrated CMOS power amplifier (PA) and antenna switch with multiband support across 2G, 3G and 4G LTE cellular modes. This innovative solution provides unprecedented functionality in a single component, with smaller PCB area, simplified routing and one of the smallest PA/antenna switch footprints in the industry.

    RF POP™ (QFE27xx) – The industry’s first 3D RF packaging solution, integrates the QFE23xx multimode, multiband power amplifier and antenna switch, with all the associated SAW filters and duplexers in a single package. Designed to be easily interchangeable, the QFE27xx allows OEMs to change the substrate configuration to support global and/or region-specific frequency band combinations. The QFE27xx RF POP enables a highly integrated multiband, multimode, single-package RF front end solution that is truly global.
  • Reply 11 of 44
    macologist wrote: »
    So would this New Chip mean: 

    1. SIM Cards on Verizon, the same way as ATT's GSM, so that one could just buy such SIM Card when traveling outside the USA, and not have to pay International Roaming? 

    2. Will there finally be Simultaneous Voice and Data on Verizon iPhones? 

    My instinct is that the Answer to both Qs will be NO! The excuse given by Verizon and other CDMA carriers will be - we want to preserve Backward Compatibility, so that if a Customer is in the are where there is no Latest LTE, we need to offer them Backward Compatibility to 3G or even Older 2G, which would be still on CDMA! 

    It would great to be pleasantly surprised, and see that whole CDMA GSM and other Sub-Flavors to go away, and have a Truly One Phone for One World, but… the Carriers around the world want to control their markets, and, no matter how powerful Apple will be, the Carriers will fight back, and will include some kind of restrictions! 

    We can only guess why China Mobile, The Biggest Carrier there, still didn't make a Deal with Apple! It's logical to conclude that there are some Restrictions, Limitations being negotiated...

    The Speeds and Pricing Plans with all their Data Caps in the USA will be another battle ground!

    solipsismx wrote: »
    1) The iPhone 5 has a SIM card slot on all models. On the Verizon iPhone 5 it's unlock so you can use GSM/UMTS/LTE on other carriers, but the LTE is currently limited due to the operating bands.

    2) SV&D will require a third antenna which is why some LTE phones on Verizon have it but the iPhone 5 does not. I think there is a good chance we'll see it this year (or maybe I just really miss it from switching from AT&T last year).

    3) GSM and CDMA will still be around for a long time. They are part of the chipsets and use very little power compared to newer standards. Think of 802.11b still part of WiFi. Think of how long carrier kept AMPS around.

    4) I think China Mobiles has a much better hand than Apple and I think Apple will do special things to secure that market. Perhaps that is, in part, investing in Qualcomm to create the RF360 posthaste or creating a cheaper handset since subsidized devices aren't common.


    1. You should have more faith in the carriers. The carriers will find a way to put the screws to you.

    2. Verizon has announced Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Verizon claimed that they deployed VoLTE trials more than one year ago. Verizon announced a successful VoLTE telephone call on their commercial LTE network over two years ago.

    3. I suspect you are correct. If I had to guess, I wouldn't seriously contemplate the end of GSM and CDMA for another decade. I suspect that migrating the entire infrastructure in rural areas will require more than a decade, however.

    4. I suspect you are correct. The entire solution seems tailor made for Apple.


    * The Verizon VoLTE deployment will be interesting. Verizon has publicly stated that they will not support VoLTE to CDMA handoffs. I hope Verizon has very good coverage when they decide to deploy VoLTE.

    ** I suspect we will see a much better antenna configuration on the next generation iPhone.
  • Reply 12 of 44
    m01etym01ety Posts: 278member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post



    3. I suspect you are correct. If I had to guess, I wouldn't seriously contemplate the end of GSM and CDMA for another decade. I suspect that migrating the entire infrastructure in rural areas will require more than a decade, however.


     


    Sunset dates for CDMA have already been announced. In this country, for Verizon, it's 2021. This information is available publicly.

  • Reply 13 of 44
    m01etym01ety Posts: 278member



    Quote:



    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    1) ...that even supports the obscure TD-SCDMA network...


    2) ...used by the world's largest carrier China Mobile.



     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post


    These statements do not fit together very well...



     


    Yeah... I hopped in this thread to say the same thing. As annoying and impractical as it may be that the Chinese keep forking everything rather than using what the international community uses, anything deployed for use by over ONE BILLION HUMANS by definition does not qualify as "obscure". Unless, of course, the writer has a laughably West-/US-centric attitude in a global landscape.

  • Reply 14 of 44
    m01ety wrote: »

    Yeah... I hopped in this thread to say the same thing. As annoying and impractical as it may be that the Chinese keep forking everything rather than using what the international community uses, anything deployed for use by over ONE BILLION HUMANS by definition does not qualify as "obscure". Unless, of course, the writer has a laughably West-/US-centric attitude in a global landscape.

    China Mobile doesn't have one billion subscribers.
  • Reply 15 of 44

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by m01ety View Post


     


     


    Yeah... I hopped in this thread to say the same thing. As annoying and impractical as it may be that the Chinese keep forking everything rather than using what the international community uses, anything deployed for use by over ONE BILLION HUMANS by definition does not qualify as "obscure". Unless, of course, the writer has a laughably West-/US-centric attitude in a global landscape.



     


    Not -centric. Pro-.

  • Reply 16 of 44


    Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

    These statements do not fit together very well...


     


    If they're the only ones to use it, then they fit well enough.


     


    300,000,000 subscribers on a single tech is a pretty small proportion.

  • Reply 17 of 44
    If they're the only ones to use it, then they fit well enough.

    300,000,000 subscribers on a single tech is a pretty small proportion.

    As a matter of fact, China Mobile currently reports 94,979,000 3G subscribers. We can probably safely assume all those subscribers are using TD-SCDMA though.

    AT&T and Verizon both have nearly that many subscribers each (although a large number of their aren't using 3G any more).

    Sadly, TD-SCDMA is already a displaced technology. Everyone else is deploying or discussing deployment of 4G technologies, including LTE Advanced in some instances. Little wonder Apple doesn't want to support them.
  • Reply 18 of 44


    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post

    As a matter of fact, China Mobile currently reports 94,979,000 3G subscribers. We can probably safely assume all those subscribers are using TD SCMA though.




    See, even more accurate. ~100,000,000 is certainly small enough to say obscure.

  • Reply 19 of 44
    gwmacgwmac Posts: 1,795member


    This chipset might be the biggest proof yet that Apple might expand the iPhone range to include a cheaper and larger version. By that I mean that Apple doesn't like to have a lot of SKU's. Just for the current iPhone alone without this chipset they would have probably needed to add at least another 2 or more models to cover additional bands in other countries. Then when you add in the 16/32/64 that increases it further. But now it might be possible to just differentiate them on nothing more than the storage size and not the chipset meaning 3 instead possibly 21 or more. 


     


    A truly universal chipset would make it a lot more tempting to expand the line to both a cheaper and larger display version as well and still have fewer sku's than you would have before with just the standard iPhone split among 6 or more versions. 


     


    Also great news for any iPhone owners on Sprint since that means that the old Nextel ESMR band and Clearwire's LTE will now be supported which should go live not too long in the future. Currently only the 1900 Sprint PCS band is supported for LTE on the iPhone.  

  • Reply 20 of 44
    gwmac wrote: »
    This chipset might be the biggest proof yet that Apple might expand the iPhone range to include a cheaper and larger version. By that I mean that Apple doesn't like to have a lot of SKU's. Just for the current iPhone alone without this chipset they would have probably needed to add at least another 2 or more models to cover additional bands in other countries. Then when you add in the 16/32/64 that increases it further. But now it might be possible to just differentiate them on nothing more than the storage size and not the chipset meaning 3 instead possibly 21 or more. 

    A truly universal chipset would make it a lot more tempting to expand the line to both a cheaper and larger display version as well and still have fewer sku's than you would have before with just the standard iPhone split among 6 or more versions. 

    Also great news for any iPhone owners on Sprint since that means that the old Nextel ESMR band and Clearwire's LTE will now be supported which should go live not too long in the future. Currently only the 1900 Sprint PCS band is supported for LTE on the iPhone.  

    I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Apple partially funded the design, development or manufacturing of the technology.* I seriously don't see any drawbacks of the technology especially since they are claiming as much as a 30% efficiency improvement.



    * This is by no exaggeration of the truth a claim that Apple is responsible for the technology, merely an admission that Apple has a very strong interest in the technology.
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