NVIDIA’s Tegra 4i smartphone processor is already capable of handling LTE-Advanced networks that carriers will start rolling out this year to give users even faster data speeds.
According to The Verge NVIDIA recently debuted its new LTE-Advanced using the same chipset as the first version of the Tegra 4i. NVIDIA is able to use the same chipset because the processor uses a “software-defined modem,” which means NVIDIA can upgrade the modem without using new chips.
LTE-Advanced supports data speeds of up to 150Mbps, making it 50 percent faster than the current 4G LTE which supports up to 100Mbps data speeds. Verizon and AT&T are among the carriers that will start rolling out LTE-Advanced later this year.
NVIDIA hopes to add Voice over LTE (VoLTE) functionality to its modem sometime later this year. The feature would let phones send voice over 4G LTE networks instead of 3G networks like they currently do. All major carriers including Verizon and AT&T said they will support VoLTE soon, though none of them have the feature yet. Currently only MetroPCS supports VoLTE.
While NVIDIA is able to upgrade its modem through software, users shouldn’t expect modem software updates to their phones after release. Once a phone ships with the chipset, the carrier will likely only push minor updates to fix any flaws instead of major updates to support new networks.
The software-defined modem may make it easier for NVIDIA to support new technology as carrier roll it out. At its CES press conference NVIDIA also claimed that its modem would draw less power and better at connecting to weak signals.
The NVIDIA Tegra 4i is working its way through AT&T’s certification process. AT&T will likely approve the processor in time for phones in early 2014. NVIDIA will have a hard time competing against Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line which is found in almost every new high-end smartphone.
Instead NVIDIA may have to rely on mid-range phones if it hopes to have a presence in the U.S. market. The chip’s relatively low-cost should make it an easy choice for mid-range phone manufacturers.