Consumers win as chip vendors fight it out over LTE

New chipsets will result in cheaper LTE tablets and smartphones next year

Qualcomm and competitor MediaTek are working on chipsets that will open the door for LTE in low-cost smartphones and tablets, allowing people all over the world to benefit from the higher speeds it offers.

The smartphone market is going through several changes as the primary driver behind smartphone growth in the years ahead will be low-cost devices. The chip vendors are now battling over who will get to power this next generation of smartphones and tablets.

On Monday, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 410 family, which will power smartphones released during the second half of next year and priced under US$150 without a contract, according to the chip vendor. The announcement is significant and will have a very big impact on the popularity of LTE, according to Alan Hadden, president at industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).

But Qualcomm isn't the only vendor that aims to cut the cost of LTE. Competitor MediaTek is getting ready to launch its first SoCs (system-on-a-chips) with LTE. The company will push LTE as hard as it can, according to Johan Lodenius , chief marketing officer at MediaTek. For a technology to become truly widespread, there must be products that are priced reasonably, he said in a recent interview.

Smartphones like the Motorola Moto G and the Lumia 520 from Nokia already offer good performance and value for money, but they lack support for LTE. That will definitely change next year as Qualcomm ramps up production of the Snapdragon 410 and competing products are announced, according to Malik Saadi, principal analyst with market research company Informa Telecoms & Media.

Reference designs offered by the chip vendors will help increase competition by making it easier for new smartphone vendors in China and India to develop LTE smartphones, he said.

Additionally, the new chipsets will decrease the price difference between Wi-Fi only tablets and tablets that come with an LTE connection. But that doesn't necessarily mean tablet users will switch to LTE, because models with 10-inch screens will still mostly be used indoors where Wi-Fi is also available, according to Saadi.

It has been a banner year for the 4G mobile network technology. Last week, GSA reported that the number of commercial LTE networks had increased to 244, a 78 percent increase compared to a year ago. The total number of LTE subscribers were 157.7 million in the third quarter, up 110.1 million in the past year, according to Informa.

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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