ST-Ericsson puts next-gen LTE technology on new quad-core smartphone processor

The NovaThor L8580 can be used to implement up to 17 spectrum bands on one device for wider international roaming

ST-Ericsson has cranked its forthcoming smartphone processor up to 3GHz. The quad-core NovaThor L8580 will include a PowerVR graphics processor and an LTE modem with support VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and next-generation LTE technology carrier aggregation.

For ST-Ericsson the L8580 is an important product as it seeks to convince smartphone makers it still has a future despite recent struggles. The chip maker was dealt a blow when co-owner STMicroelectronics decided to exit the joint venture, which leaves its other owner, Ericsson, working on a way to save it.

The upcoming processor looks like it could help. The initial commercial version of the NovaThor L8580 will have a quad-core 2.5GHz processor based on the ARM Cortex-A9, but at Mobile World Congress ST-Ericsson will demonstrate a version with the clock speed increased to 3GHz.

The chip die also holds an Imagination PowerVR graphics processor and a multimode LTE modem with carrier aggregation, providing one of the underpinnings for LTE-Advanced. It increases download speeds by combining two or more blocks of spectrum in the same or different frequency bands into one channel.

In addition to LTE, the chip's radio part can communicate on HSPA+, GSM and TD-SCDMA networks, and with up to 17 bands on the same device, vendors can build global LTE smartphones with the smallest number of manufacturing variants of their phone, according to ST-Ericsson. More LTE bands on one device also opens the door for international roaming, but only if operators decide to start offering that service.

Like many chip makers, ST-Ericsson is focusing on improving battery life as well as enhancing performance. The NovaThor L8580 has a low power mode that consumes 50 percent less power at 1GHz, the company said.

Telephony is still the biggest revenue generator for mobile operators, and the NovaThor L8580 is compatible with both HD Voice and VoLTE.

VoLTE and carrier aggregation are expected to be two of the big infrastructure trends at this year's Mobile World Congress. Sierra Wireless and Qualcomm are also demonstrating products that are compatible with carrier aggregation, for example.

ST-Ericsson isn't saying when it expects the NovaThor L8580 will show up on smartphones.

Mobile World Congress takes place from Feb. 25 to Feb. 28 in Barcelona.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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