By Alexandra Burlacu | Feb 22, 2013 09:43 AM EST
Apple supplier Qualcomm announced a new "global LTE" chipset that operates on 40 bands, including all existing LTE networks, and could make the iPhone truly global.
Qualcomm's new front-end solution could lead to an iPhone able to support even the more obscure TD-SCMA network that China Mobile uses. China Mobile is the world's largest carrier, and it would be a godsend for the iPhone.
The RF360 Front End Solution comes as the first comprehensive system to deal with LTE fragmentation, according to Qualcomm. This would allow smartphone makers such as Apple to make a single handset that can support all 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and LTE Advanced options. Current limitations with existing wireless chipsets allow the iPhone to come in just three variants — two GSM models and one CDMA.
"Band fragmentation is the biggest obstacle to designing today's global LTE devices, with 40 cellular radio bands worldwide," Qualcomm explains in its press release. "The Qualcomm RF front end solution comprises a family of chips designed to mitigate this problem while improving RF performance and helping OEMs more easily develop multiband, multimode mobile devices supporting all seven cellular modes, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE."
"The RF front end solution includes the industry's first envelope power tracker for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, a dynamic antenna matching tuner, an integrated power amplifier-antenna switch, and an innovative 3D-RF packaging solution incorporating key front end components."
By deploying the new chipset in a next-generation iPhone, Apple could roll out a single "universal" device instead of its current three-variant lineup. The chipset's TD-SCDMA capabilities are particularly exciting, as China Mobile uses the standard. Apple did not make a deal yet with the world's largest cellular provider by subscribership, but analysts believe such a partnership would be a major boost for Apple's iOS platform.
Moreover, although China Mobile is not an official Apple partner carrier, it reportedly has roughly 15 million iPhone users on its 2G network. This alone suggests high demand for an iPhone.
Meanwhile, a recent study of the Chinese market assessed that the Cupertino giant could triple its addressable market in the country if it launched a low-cost iPhone that worked on China Mobile's network. The iPhone 5 currently accounts for about 10 percent of China's mobile market, as China Telecom and China Unicom are the only two providers to carry the smartphone.
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