Qualcomm’s new wireless chip makes a truly global iPhone possible

By , Feb 22, 2013

Qualcomm Chips

Doesn’t it bother you that Apple sells its LTE devices like the iPhone 5 and latest iPads in a bunch of variants, depending on your carrier and geographical location? For example, the iPhone comes in two GSM models and one CDMA version. Blame it on the limitations with existing wireless chipsets, not Apple. Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is a fantastic technology, but it’s also highly fragmented.

And with nearly fifty different cellular bands in use globally worldwide, no wonder LTE is a bag of hurt, one that has introduced fragmentation unlike any other cellular radio technology before it.

Fortunately, chip maker Qualcomm has announced a new cellular solution which supports as much as 40 different bands on a single chip. It could finally allow Apple to build a truly global iPhone model that could support all implementations of the major cellular technologies used by carriers the world over…

According to a media release, Qualcomm’s new RF360 chipset supports seven cellular radio technologies, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE.

Just to illustrate what a headache LTE is, Apple sells its iPhone 5 in two GSM variants – model A1428 for LTE bands 4 and 17 and model A1429 for LTE bands 1, 3 and 5 – and one CDMA variant, model A1429 for LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 13 and 25. The handset uses Qualcomm’s MDM9615M LTE modem and RTR8600 Multi-band/mode RF transceiver.

The RF360 chipset solves this cellular fragmentation in one fell swoop. The silicon also improves RF band performance and has five components to it: Dynamic Antenna Matching Tuner (QFE15xx), Envelope Power Tracker (QFE11xx), Integrated Power Amplifier / Antenna Switch (QFE23xx) and RF POP (QFE27xx).

Here’s Qualcomm’s promo video.

Qualcomm says the new chipset could find its way inside mobile devices launching during the second half of 2013, conveniently coinciding with the next iPhone. It could also be a nice fit for that rumored inexpensive iPhone model.

It gets even better than that: because the chip supports TD-SCDMA used by China Mobile, the next iPhone could also launch on the world’s leading carrier, provided Apple and state-owned China Mobile finally cut that long rumored iPhone distribution deal. Morgan Stanley says a budget iPhone could triple Apple’s share of the Chinese market.

By the way, Qualcomm’s advertising is certainly much better than their keynotes.

Check out this ad where they put up a poster featuring a URL at a bus stop, watch what happened when people visited the mobile site on their devices.

This has go to be the best bus stop ever, no?

Per Flurry data, China is now officially the world’s largest market for mobile devices and Tim Cook recently met with China Mobile execs to talk “matters of cooperation” so a deal appears to be a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

Local and inexpensive smartphone brands have pushed Apple out of China’s top five rankings so a deal with China Mobile should be a high priority.

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  • Mohamed Mamdouh

    One Chip to rule them all

  • CollegiateLad

    Not sure why I would care how many variants of LTE chips there are. My phone has LTE – that’s all that matters.

    • Ksain

      So, words like “less battery drain, improved performance, thiner design” and things like that means nothing to you?
      I’ve got no LTE on my iPhone 5 because supported frequency used by military in my country. So for me this is a wonderfull news.

      • CollegiateLad

        Awesome!!!

    • Mohammed Sahib

      Clearly it is not be for you. But for global customers and frequent travelers it is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004208585464 William Wilson

      For most people no, it doesn’t matter. But since I have AT&T and I travel to Asia a lot, I am stuck having the Verizon iPhone running on AT&T (that means no LTE in the USA, but HSPA+ is fine) so I can have LTE at my destination where the HSPA+ is crap but the LTE is good.

  • iHamzaDev

    I have a feeling carrier’s will take advantage of this. Having a truly global smartphone, this means carriers will be more hesitant to offer unlocks on their devices because of competition. Roaming chargers might rise as well.

    • http://twitter.com/Konahamarue ElementalXTC

      I agree, but after living in Europe for several years, I’d rather buy something at full price and retain my freedom of choice than to lock myself into a contract. I purchased my last 5 phones through eBay unlocked & contract free: iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, HTC Raider/Vivid, HTC Sensation, and Galaxy Note 2.
      It isn’t cheap, but I travel alot so having an unlocked phone is necessary.

  • http://twitter.com/MWitkowski1337 Michael Witkowski

    “It looks small, but it’s really huge!” – That’s literally what she said-

    • DJ Garcia

      My gf says size doesn’t matter ;) but I am fucking huge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    oh great sounds fun

  • seyss

    amazing.. these qualcomm guys kick ass (assuming all that the ad said is true)

  • http://twitter.com/Konahamarue ElementalXTC

    This is excellent news. iPhone 4 worked all over Europe and Asia for me, where their 3G is just as fast as USA’s 4G