Qualcomm SoC Will Offer Both WiFi, LTE Connectivity

The FSM90xx SoC will enable small cell products such as broadband gateways and WiFi routers for SMBs and residences to support both technologies.

small cell chip technology Qualcomm

Qualcomm officials want to make it easier for residents and small business owners to get improved wireless coverage in their homes and offices.

The chip vendor on June 11 unveiled the FSM90xx system-on-a-chip (SoC) that will enable vendors that build wireless access points (APs) to use this small cell chip technology in their products to enable indoor wireless coverage via both WiFi and 4G LTE. It also offers outdoor coverage for neighborhood deployments, according to Qualcomm officials.

For mobile operators using APs powered by the FSM90xx SoC, the result will be a better user experience for their residential and SMB customers. For Qualcomm, the new 28-nanometer chip will help fill out its lineup of small cell technologies, according to Puneet Sethi, product manager for small cells at Qualcomm Atheros.

"We have a portfolio that can serve all small cell segments that are out there," Sethi told eWEEK.

Qualcomm officials said the new small cell SoC will help address what they are calling the "1000x data challenge." More people are using more wireless devices to connect to networks that are increasingly faster due to the migration to such technologies as LTE and running more applications that require high amounts of bandwidth. The results are networks that are struggling to keep up with the demand for more speed and capacity and mobile operators that are looking for ways to ease the burden.

Small cells are essentially access points that can improve network coverage and capacity, reduce the cost of service delivery, help open new revenue opportunities and improve the user experience with faster mobile broadband services and better quality voice connections. A growing number of device and components makers—from Cisco Systems to Alcatel-Lucent to Broadcom—are building out their small cell product portfolios.

Infonetics Research analysts are predicting the small cells market to grow rapidly starting this year. In a report in April, they said 4G small cell devices will start climbing this year, and that revenues will grow to $1.3 billion—a 65 percent increase—in 2014.

"The need to enhance existing saturated macrocellular networks that are struggling to maintain a decent mobile broadband experience, as well as to add capacity to existing LTE networks, is bringing some fuel to our forecast," Richard Webb, directing analyst for mobile backhaul and small cells at Infonetics, said in a statement.

Qualcomm's FSM90xx SoC uses capabilities in Qualcomm's Internet Processor to enable mobile operators to support both cellular and WiFi connectivity for home users and SMBs. The Internet Processor includes a packet processing engine that can scale to handle a range of networking functions, including WiFi and LTE. In addition, the vendor also has built hardware accelerators into the chipset to make data processing for both faster.

By being based on 28nm process technology, the SoC also improves the energy efficiency and cost effectiveness of the various devices—from residential broadband gateways to WiFi routers for SMBs—that it will power and help run high-volume applications, Qualcomm officials said. The vendor was able to reduce interference that comes with offering small cell products that can offer both WiFi and LTE connectivity by integrating self-organizing networks (SON) techniques through Qualcomm's UltraSON software.

The chips are expected to begin sampling in the second half of the year, with the technology reportedly appearing in products in the first half of 2015.