Nvidia making big strides into LTE territory

While Qualcomm might control some 90+ percent of the LTE baseband market, that hasn't stopped chipmaker Nvidia making huge strides into the territory.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

Nvidia, once a company associated only with GPUs, has been spreading its wings as of late, and one area that the company has been focusing on is LTE modems technology.

LTE (also known as 4G) was once the domain of chipmaker Qualcomm (the company commanded some 95 percent revenue share of the total LTE baseband market during the third quarter of 2013), but last year we saw Intel, Broadcom and Nvidia begin eyeing that space. But it's Nvidia that has made the biggest headway in that time.

First there's Nvidia's new i500 LTE modem, which scores a number of wins. First, it's small. Very small. It measures 7 mm square, making it some 40 percent smaller than the competition. It's also battery efficient, thanks to its small size and use of a 28-nanometer fabrication process. It is also backward-compatible with older 3G and 2G cellular technologies so there's no need for additional chips.

The i500 is also a future-proof platform thanks to its software upgradeability.

Nvidia has also worked hard to make the life of ODMs (Original Device Manufacturers) easier by coming up with multiple reference designs and pre-integration with NVIDIA Tegra, Android, and WinRT platforms. The company has also added it as an option for its Tegra Note 7 tablet.

And the i500 is a global LTE modem, capable of working with carriers across 6 continents and in more than 65 countries.

Then there's the Tegra 4i chip. Here Nvidia have taken its base Tegra 4 chip, changed the 4 + 1 cores to ARM Cortex-A9 r4, boosted the clocks speed to 2.3GHz, reduced the GPU cores from 72 to 60 and integrated the i500 LTE modem directly into the chip.

And the Tegra 4i is no vaporware – the chip is already in use in LG's G2 Mini and the Wax smartphone by French phone maker Wiko.

While Nvidia is going to have to work hard if it is to make a real dent in Qualcomm's dominance, the company is already demonstrating a real willingness to push itself and be innovative in this area.  

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