Broadcom is developing chipsets that officials said will make it easier for device makers to bring 4G connectivity to low-cost smartphones.
Company officials said the new reference platform, which supports Google's Android 4.4 "KitKat" mobile operating system, is in development now and will be part of Broadcom's larger presentation of its mobile technologies during the Mobile World Congress 2014 show Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain.
The high-speed chipsets, announced Feb. 10, will be aimed at smartphones priced at less than $300, a rapidly growing segment of the smartphone market. This is particularly true in emerging markets, where smartphones often are the first computing device for users.
In a report in November 2013, IDC analysts said smartphone shipments will increase beyond 1 billion units in 2013, a 39.3 percent jump over 2012. By 2017, that number should hit 1.7 billion units. However, the key trend in the market is the decline in the average selling prices (ASPs) of the devices, the analysts said.
"The key driver behind smartphone volumes in the years ahead is the expected decrease in prices," Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team, said in a statement at the time the report was released. "Particularly within emerging markets, where price sensitivity and elasticity are so important, prices will come down for smartphones to move beyond the urban elite and into the hands of mass-market users. Every vendor is closely eyeing how far down they can price their devices while still realizing a profit and offering a robust smartphone experience."
The ASP for smartphones in 2013 will hit $337—a 12.8 percent drop from 2012, the analysts said. By 2017, that average price could drop to $265, due in part to the growing number of devices running the Android OS. For example, Motorola—a division of Google that is being sold to Lenovo—in November 2013 introduced the Moto G smartphone, a low-cost option to the company's Moto X that starts at $179 unlocked.
The bulk of these lower-cost smartphones now run on 3G networks. However, Broadcom, with its upcoming chipsets, is looking to make it easier for such devices to run on the rapidly expanding 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, according to Robert Rango, executive vice president and general manager of Broadcom's Mobile and Wireless Group.
"Broadcom's turnkey team achieved a design with a very low cost bill of material … to enable handset companies to quickly and efficiently take Broadcom's LTE solutions to market," Rango said in a statement. "In addition, this turnkey design is flexible and allows OEMs to build a wide range of LTE handsets."
The chipset is being developed for Broadcom's dual-core M320 LTE system-on-a-chip (SoC), and will be pin-to-pin compatible with the vendor's upcoming quad-core M340 LTE SoC, which is scheduled to sample in the first half of 2014. LTE networks are becoming increasingly popular, with users consuming and average of 1.5GB of data every month, almost twice the amount consumed by those using non-LTE devices, company officials said.
With dual- and quad-core design reuse, device OEMs can create multiple devices using the same platform, which will help drive down engineering costs and speed up their time-to-market, according to Broadcom officials. The LTE platform will include technologies around 5G WiFi, Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) technologies, they said.