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Qualcomm’s Multi-Mode Gobi LTE Radio Promises a Roaming Future for iPhones, Androids

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For weary world travelers and commitmentphobes, Qualcomm’s Gobi modems have offered somewhat of a reprieve to either expensive unsubsidized phone prices or the untenable thought of having to sign a two- or three-year contract with a local carrier. The chip-maker’s current Gobi chipset, found on the iPhone 4S, allows Apple to create one iPhone model to cover both CDMA and GSM networks and offer 3G capabilities on both UMTS/HSPA and EVDO technologies all on one chip. Verizon’s iPhone, for example, could hop onto a GSM 3G HSPA network overseas, and if unlocked, could potentially even work on AT&T’s 3G HSPA/HSPA+ network as well. However, with 4G LTE becoming the trending mobile broadband topic, Qualcomm isn’t sitting still and the company has announced the fifth incarnation of Gobi that will allow for 4G network hopping as well.

The innovation could potentially enable Apple to create a single iPhone 5 model for 4G LTE networks that would span both AT&T’s and Verizon’s networks in the future. Additionally, with 4G LTE Android phones on the rise, we could see a similar effect for Android tablets and smartphones.

The latest Qualcomm Gobi chipset will support LTE FDD and LTE TDD networks, HSPA+/UMTS 3G networks, EVDO 3G, and GSM and CDMA networks, providing for a wealth of compatibility with most major world networks. The chipset will be compatible with both Windows 8 and Android devices and could be paired with ARM-based CPUs, such as Qualcomm’s homegrown Snapdragon processors, or x86 architectures.

It’s unclear what frequencies will be supported with LTE. Though AT&T and Verizon both operate their 4G LTE network in the 700 MHz spectrum differing frequencies make current LTE devices on AT&T inoperable on Verizon’s 4G network and Verizon’s 4G devices inoperable on AT&T’s network. Additionally, the possibility of having a compatible 4G LTE Gobi chip that spans both networks may still be pointless if Verizon and AT&T–or whatever other carriers–do not have appropriate roaming agreements in place. The chips–and the accompanying phones and tablets–then would only be good if one wanted to switch network and have an unlocked device out of the box or the ability to SIM unlock their phones at a later date.

Though roaming is less of an issue when traveling internationally–AT&T and Verizon will unlock your phones if you have an account in good standing with at least 90 days of service–as the carriers have agreements in place with international carriers for roaming. However, in the case of domestic roaming, that may still be problematic.

Take the Motorola Droid Pro, for example, an Android QWERTY smartphone that was released with a Gobi chipset that supported 3G EVDO and 3G HSPA radios. In the U.S., the phone is sold locked on Verizon’s network, and theoretically, if one were to SIM unlock the phone, it should be operable on AT&T’s 3G HSPA network. However, the situation is far from simple as Droid Pro owners who have tried to–and have successfully–SIM unlocked their devices find that while the AT&T SIM is recognized, software on the phone–either programmed by Motorola, the device manufacturer, or Verizon, the carrier–prevent the phone from obtaining a signal on AT&T’s network.

The fifth generation 4G LTE/3G EVDO/HSPA/GSM/CDMA Gobi chip does offer promise of a more harmonious mobile existence, but carriers still need to loosen their grips as well.

Press release:

Qualcomm Announces Fifth Generation Embedded Data Connectivity Reference Platform

Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced its fifth generation Gobi™ embedded data connectivity reference platform for mobile devices, including thin form factor laptops, tablets and convertibles. Based on Qualcomm’s Gobi 4G LTE wireless baseband modems, the MDM9615™ and MDM9215™, the technology delivers fast LTE connectivity on FDD and TDD networks worldwide, with backwards compatibility to both HSPA+ and EV-DO networks. This will allow support for regional LTE frequencies with backwards compatibility to existing 2G/3G technologies, allowing Gobi 4G LTE devices to connect to the faster LTE network locally and stay connected to the Internet globally on 3G networks worldwide. The reference platform will support leading operating systems, such as Windows 8 and Android, with a broadband interface with carrier selection. It is also designed to support these leading operating systems on multiple processing platforms, including our Snapdragon™ dual-core and quad-core processors and x86 platforms.

Embedded modules based on the Gobi fifth generation reference platform will initially be available from Huawei, Novatel Wireless, Option, Sierra Wireless and ZTE in several form factors and regional configurations, making them a compelling 4G LTE solution for a variety of connected mobile devices.

“Mobile computing and broadband connectivity have already become indispensable tools in the road warrior’s arsenal,” said Fram Akiki, senior director of product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. “With Windows 8, we expect to see an increasing variety of mobile computing devices also in use by connected consumers around the world. Our Gobi fifth generation reference platform helps ensure that OEMs can develop products across their choice of operating systems and hardware platforms to meet the growing demand for mobile connectivity.”

Qualcomm’s latest Gobi 4G LTE connectivity reference platform includes embedded GPS capability and features an application programming interface (API) with LTE extensions, which is compatible with leading connectivity standards, including CDMA2000® 1xEV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B, HSPA+, dual-carrier HSPA+, TD-SCDMA and LTE, with integrated backwards compatibility to HSPA and EV-DO. The API provides a common software interface for developing connection managers, GPS applications and other manageability or security solutions that help connect, locate and manage a broad range of 3G/4G devices, regardless of wireless technology and operating system. This interface will help streamline product development efforts, spur application development among third-party software developers, and deliver greater flexibility to device manufacturers.

“As one of the most widely used business PCs in the world, Dell Latitude brand laptops need to support a broad range of technology so our customers can connect virtually anywhere and at any time, and Qualcomm’s Gobi platform helps us achieve this,” said Kirk Schell, executive director and general manager of Dell’s Business Client Product Group. “As mobile broadband technologies evolve, Qualcomm’s Gobi technology is an option our customers frequently select to stay connected no matter what kind of network they are on thanks to its multi-mode capabilities.”

“Qualcomm’s Gobi platform has proven to be a compelling wireless solution for embedded mobile broadband connectivity, adding to the performance, security and reliability of our ThinkPad laptops,” said Dilip Bhatia, vice president and general manager, ThinkPad, Lenovo. “We look forward to giving our customers an even faster mobile Internet experience with Gobi 4G LTE technology.”

“Huawei’s mobile broadband modules and data cards are used by OEMs and consumers worldwide, so support for multi-mode operation is a key feature of our products,” said He Jinjun, director of Device Module Business, Huawei. “Qualcomm’s fifth generation Gobi reference platform will give our LTE devices the multi-mode support they need to remain connected virtually anywhere.”

“Our Expedite Module portfolio contains multiple products offering LTE support based on Qualcomm’s Gobi technology,” said Rob Hadley, chief marketing officer, Novatel Wireless. “We look forward to offering our OEM customers new embedded modules using next-generation technology targeting devices such as notebooks, netbooks and tablets.

“At Option, we have a long standing relationship with Qualcomm in providing innovative 3G, 4G LTE and WLAN connectivity solutions with enhanced performance, functionality and usability,” said Bernard Schaballie, general manager, embedded solutions, Option. “Qualcomm’s Gobi technology has been a key enabler and we look forward to using its fifth generation Gobi reference platform in our new GTM801 LGA module family.”

“Sierra Wireless has offered wireless modules with LTE support since 2010, and Qualcomm Gobi technology has been important to the success of our LTE module program,” said Dan Schieler, senior vice president and general manager, Mobile Computing for Sierra Wireless. “Our LTE modules give OEMs the ability to embed support for the latest mobile broadband technology in a variety of connected devices, and the fifth generation Gobi reference platform will help ensure these connections provide a fast, consistent user experience.”

“Qualcomm’s Gobi technology has been used in many of our mobile broadband USB modems and mobile hotspots for some time now,” said Dr. Liu ShuLiang, data product planning director, ZTE. “LTE will give mobile consumers the fast data rates and reliable connections they need to make their mobile computing experience a productive one. We look forward to delivering fast LTE USB modems based on the Gobi technology.”

As one of the largest providers of wireless chipset and software technology in the industry, Qualcomm has a diverse chipset and software product portfolio spanning multiple device classes. System designers now have the flexibility to choose from multiple embedded Gobi solutions, ranging from 3G through high-speed, multi-operator 4G LTE. Qualcomm also offers its family of Snapdragon all-in-one processors with the option for integrated multimode 3G/4G, dual-band Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth, FM radio connectivity and differing numbers of CPU cores for the most power-efficient designs.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

3 Comments

  1. shangshangshang

    02/22/2012 at 4:02 pm

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  2. Peakcelln

    03/08/2012 at 12:15 pm

    What about naming some upcoming Gobi 5 Handsets? Any of the major Handset Manufacturers using Gobi 5 yet? Nokia? Motorola? Samsung? LG? Is there another Chip manufacturer making a chip like Gobi 5?

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