The Korean telco SKT announced recently of their intention to support LTE-Advanced services. LTE-A was ratified as part of the 3GPP Release 10 specification and brings a number of new upgrade features to the baseline LTE spec such as carrier aggregation and multi-layer MIMO enhancing the connection speeds for the consumer and allowing the carriers to better leverage their spectrum assets. ARM is busy working with its partners developing next generation LTE-A terminals based on the ARM Cortex-R7 real time core and we can expect to see LTE-A terminals supporting data rates upwards of 300Mbps. Matching the performance increase of LTE-A whilst retaining real time behaviour coupled with low power design is critical in LTE-A. LTE and LTE-A are designed with high throughput, low latency and QoS management in mind resulting in increased CPU requirements to which ARM Cortex-R processors are uniquely placed to address.
3GPP, the standards body responsible for specifying cellular standards such as HSPA and LTE are now working on 3GPP Release 12 of the specifications. A number of work items are in the pipe, including updates to LTE to support machine type communications and enhancements for peer to peer communications. A recent announcement by a group of organisations led by Qualcomm sees the proposal for LTE Direct, a technology that would allow handset to handset communication over LTE, something only possible today using Wi-Fi. Release 12 specification timeline has not been published yet.
Driving down the cost and increasing the level of integration is a key step in the smartphone market to enable the next generation of low cost ultra power efficient devices. ARM partner Mediatek have recently announced a dual ARM Cortex-A9 solution that integrates the 2G and 3G modem onto a single chip alongside the Applications processor which is traditionally separate in high end devices. The Mediatek device, MT6577 targets Android based smartphones and we will expect to see handsets based on this launched in the next few months.
Enabling the next generation of high speed Wi-Fi for mobile devices, ARM partner Broadcom have recently announced the BCM4335 ‘combo’ device that signals the industries first ‘5G Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0 + FM radio’ low power device specifically targeted at mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The BCM4335 supports 3x speeds vs existing 802.11n devices enabling users to stream HD content to their mobile devices. As well as supporting higher data rates, the device can be up to 6 times more power efficient vs 802.11n products as the same volume of data can be transmitted quicker allowing it to quickly re-enter low power energy saving mode.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has also recently announced its Passpoint Certification program, with ARM partner Mediatek announcing the first smartphone platform to be entered into the certification process. This program is targeted at carrier grade Wi-Fi and facilitates simplified authentication to Wi-Fi networks, removing the need for complex log-in screens. Passpoint will allow the user to be automatically authenticated via existing SIM card for example, and thus provide a seamless broadband experience between cellular and Wi-Fi services. As Wi-Fi integration alongside cellular becomes ubiquitous, we can expect to see more transparent services being offered by operators allowing them to make intelligent service based decisions on traffic routing across Wi-Fi and cellular that are transparent to the consumer, giving an ‘always best connected’ experience.
David Maidment, Mobile Segment Manager, ARM, looking in particular at all things ARM based in the wireless connectivity space. Before arriving at ARM in 2012, David has held positions at several ARM Partners in both the handset and small cell space.
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