Qualcomm claims LTE plus WiFi first in 28nm SoC June 13 2014

Qualcomm has what it calls the first 28nm part for small cells for small businesses and neighbourhoods

By Peter White

Qualcomm is inexorably pushing into ultra-dense networks and small cell environments, and has what it calls the first 28nm part for small cells for small businesses and neighbourhoods, combining both cellular and WiFi.

It calls it the FSM90xx SoC and it extends the LTE only part the FSM99X that came out last year, and should allow OEMs to build devices that can support virtually any LTE band, including carrier aggregation bands when paired with Qualcomm's RFICs, as well as 3G, and the latest WiFi, with 802.11ac, with MU-MIMO (multi-user MIMO) and could even use wireless to self-backhaul.

Other backhaul options are built in such as Ethernet connection or residential broadband gateways or SMB WiFi routers. The chip is designed to be controlled by Qualcomm's UltraSON software, which can turn up or turn down the power on any transmission to prevent interference with other small cells, allowing them to be installed in hyper-dense configurations.

Qualcomm showed it off at the small cell conference in London yesterday, and says they would be equally at home in the devices which target the enterprise, but also mobile operator small cell deployments or cable MSO WiFi Access points. It also says this is the first chip of its type in 28nm, and as such it is less power hungry, has more of the bill of materials built into it and the ensuing devices should therefore be a lot cheaper.

The chip uses the Qualcomm Internet Processor (IPQ), which features a powerful packet processing engine that scales to handle a variety of networking functions, including WiFi and LTE. Hardware accelerators have been built into the chipset to speed up processing for both radio technologies, and this is where the bill of materials savings are to be found.

Our feeling is that many small cell initiatives have snagged on device pricing and ease of installation when compared to WiFi, and it will only be when this chip is in a number of devices and the prices are known that we will be able to guess as how successful small cells will be in warding off the WiFi only challenge brought about by offload possibilities.

Qualcomm said that this solution will support 802.11n/ac, in MU-MIMO configurations, allowing WiFi router capabilities or operation without wired backhaul. This same SoC also supports up to 3GPP release 10 multi-cell HSDPA. Qualcomm has not suggested dates for when devices will emerge with this chip in, early next year would be our guess.

Back in March Qualcomm took part in a demonstration of what it calimed was the densest network ever constructed in a working environment, equating to 1,000 cells per square kilometer. It was put together for Sprint's TDD technology, working with Airspan around the Nascar racing circuit.

Qualcomm acquired small cell access/backhaul chip firm DesignArt Networks in 2012 and developed the UltraSon software in-house.