Designed for a 4G World: Broadcom 4G LTE Unleashed

In today’s mobile ecosystem, two driving forces work in parallel: The rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets and the surging demand for access to content over a network that’s faster, more reliable and is available anytime and anywhere. To meet those demands, carriers have been rolling out next-generation 4G LTE devices so on-the-go consumers can browse the Web, upload photos and stream media at speeds comparable to what they have at home.Broadcom's 4G LTE logo

Today, Broadcom is unveiling the BCM21892, the industry’s smallest 4G LTE-Advanced modem – built around technology that will take 4G LTE devices to the next level. Designed specifically for the 4G market, Broadcom’s multi-mode, multi-band LTE modem delivers the size, power and performance that manufacturers need to develop faster, sleeker and more battery-efficient devices. Broadcom is demonstrating its 4G LTE modem at Mobile World Congress later this month in Barcelona (Hall 3, Booth #3C14).

Related: Will the Real 4G Please Stand Up: Getting to Know LTE Technology

Broadcom has taken a holistic view of the challenges handset makers and carriers face as networks transition from legacy networks to 4G. Here are a few of the issues Broadcom is looking to address:

  • If 4G LTE delivers the super-fast speeds it promises (>100 Mbps), then why are some early LTE smartphones limited to much slower speeds?
  • How can LTE phones offer an enhanced experience without consuming more power than current phones?
  • If LTE coverage is indeed becoming more widespread, why do users have trouble roaming with their devices?

Meeting the Challenge of a 4G World

Broadcom decided to tackle these problems head-on, and here’s how: First, addressing speed. Broadcom supports the latest version of the 3GPP LTE Advanced standard, which enables peak speeds of  150 Mbps. Second, boosting battery life and reducing power consumption. Broadcom has embedded its innovative power management technologies within the radio, saving up to 25 percent of the power typically consumed during data uplink, which translates to better battery life for consumers. Finally, Broadcom is tackling the roaming challenge, which is addressed by integrating a 28-nanometer 4G LTE baseband with a world radio, which supports multiple roaming bands on the spectrum.

Broadcom's 4G LTE infographic

Explore the journey to 4G LTE and where it’s headed. Click on graphic to expand, download and share.

All of this is done on one tiny piece of silicon. Broadcom’s 4G LTE modem is 35 percent smaller than industry benchmarks so that manufacturers can develop smaller, sleeker handsets.

Roaming and the Spectrum Crunch

Broadcom is also addressing the issue of “spectrum crunch,” a lack of available LTE spectrum, by including support for carrier aggregation, an important technology that allows service providers to combine multiple radio channels within and across bands. This essentially creates a larger data pipe so that data user rates are increased and latency is reduced. Broadcom’s expertise in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi comes in handy here, too, because these devices need to be able to seamlessly move across different networks and connectivity technologies.

While there is a shortage of spectrum, many types of 4G LTE radio frequencies are being deployed around the world. Today, 3G and legacy networks use only a limited number of bands and it’s not that difficult for a smartphone to roam internationally. But with 4G, more than 40 LTE bands are in use across different regions, making it harder for an LTE-enabled device to effectively roam from one coverage area to another. While operators in the U.S. mostly use the 700 MHz spectrum for their 4G LTE networks, operators in parts of Europe use the 2.6 GHz spectrum while Japan uses 2.1 GHz.

There’s no unified solution to this problem — but Broadcom has developed a technology that accommodates the various LTE bands that are in use, as well as the existing 3G and 2G networks. A flexible LTE platform allows device manufacturers to develop 4G smartphones capable of LTE roaming between different regions and carriers.

The BCM21892  is a chip that not only provides the super-fast wireless access users have come to expect from 4G but also the support for additional services, including international roaming and high-definition voice calling, that carriers will soon offer. As the new modem is expected to appear in mobile devices next year, consumers will begin to experience the true power of an LTE offering designed from the ground up for a 4G world.

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About the Author

Lars Johnsson is a former senior director of product marketing at Broadcom. As co-founder of Flarion Technologies, was an early advocate of OFDMA all IP networks, which form the basis of today’s LTE networks… More