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Broadcom's first LTE modem bets on small size and lots of features to edge out Qualcomm

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Broadcom logo

Broadcom, manufacturer of baseband and modem components for smartphones, tablets, and other devices, has announced its first LTE modem, the sleepily-named BCM21892. The new modem is targeted towards high-end smartphones and tablets, and supports a host of advanced connectivity features, including LTE FDD and TDD Advanced CAT 4 for download speeds up to 150Mbps and uploads up to 51Mbps; VoLTE and HD Voice; HSPA+, TD-SCDMA (for Chinese markets), and EDGE / GSM; and carrier aggregation, which lets carriers combine frequencies to improve data speeds for users. In addition to having all of these connectivity options, Broadcom says the 28nm BCM21892 is 35 percent smaller than the leading competition (read: Qualcomm), which makes the chip itself more efficient and smaller in actual size than other modems. Smaller chips mean that device manufacturers have more room on their component boards, allowing them to either shrink devices down even further or make room for other features that couldn't fit otherwise.

Smaller size leaves more room for other smartphone goodies

Though it is not an integrated LTE and processor solution — Broadcom says the modem can be paired with most any application processor that a device maker chooses — the new modem is compatible with the company's existing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC chips, and it is tuned to eliminate interference problems with those chips. Broadcom recently signed deals with ARM to produce application processors with integrated LTE capabilities in the future(similar to what Qualcomm offers with its Snapdragon line), but this new modem is not part of that initiative (Broadcom told us to "stay tuned" for announcements about those chips).

Broadcom has its work cut out for it

Broadcom has its work cut out for it in the LTE modem space — the market is currently dominated by Qualcomm, and other companies such as Renesas and Nvidia have pledged to produce LTE modems, as well. But right now, Broadcom has an opportunity to jump in the fight against Qualcomm and make it a two-horse race, as it is already sampling the new modem to manufacturers. The company isn't talking price on it yet — and frankly, the price of a single component is just one factor in the final cost of a device that you may end up purchasing — but it plans to have the modem in mass production by 2014. Of course, that gives other manufacturers plenty of time to catch up, or for Qualcomm to extend its lead in the market.