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Summary:

With more people using smartphones to record video and create other shareable content, mobile upload speeds are gaining prominence. Broadcom’s newest processor with support for 5.8 Mbps uploads helps do just that and more. The question is — will handset makers choose to use it?

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With more people using smartphones to record video and create other shareable content, mobile upload speeds are gaining prominence. That’s a shift because when consumers talk about mobile broadband speeds, they’ve historically focused on the download side. Yet I’ve heard that more data was created in 2009 than in all prior years combined. Most of that data is media-driven or enterprise content, but a growing proportion comes from everyday folks like you and me. That’s why upload speeds will continue to gain interest and might have something to do with Broadcom’s newest mobile chip.

Broadcom today introduced a new baseband processor for mobile devices that provides fast download speeds, but zippy upload throughput as well. The single chip BCM21553 offers HSDPA support for 7.2 Mbps on the downside while also supporting HSUPA uploads at 5.8 Mbps. Obviously, you need a network that can offer these speeds — we’re really just getting started with that here in the U.S. — but the radio platform is a key part of the puzzle too.

Broadcom’s news release is focusing more on the wireless capabilities than anything else, but the chip is more than just a radio platform. The BCM21553 is built on an ARM11 processor, contains a 3G graphics core with support for OpenGL ES 2, can drive an HVGA display and 8 megapixel camera, plus encode or decode H.264 video at 30 frames per second. Based upon the specifications, the chip looks comparable to the ones in the Apple iPhone 3GS or HTC Hero. The chip can handle Windows Mobile or Android, says Broadcom, so the company just needs a handset maker to choose the solution.

If anywhere, I see the BCM21553 fitting in smartphones for the masses — what I’d call low to mid-end devices in the subsidized $99 to $149 range. Higher-end “superphones”  are already capable of the faster HSUPA speeds and run on a newer version of the ARM architecture. But there’s still a place for chips like this. Not every customer needs — or wants to pay for — a more capable high-end processor for their smartphone tasks. But with all of the video and other content we’re creating, faster upload features are becoming more important on a daily basis. Check out NewTeeVee’s two-part overview of online video this past decade and the trend should be abundantly clear — you might not be uploading much today, but mobile chip makers like Broadcom are betting that you will in the future.

Related research from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

When It Comes to Pain at the Pipe, Upstream is the New Downstream

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  1. Pricing – can they crush the pricing advantage of Qualcomm? That’s the question.

    Secondly, if they can’t, does the average low/mid tier smartphone user care about his upload speed? He’s happy to be on 3G and have his 1st smartphone….does he really know enough to pay an extra $35~50 at retail for a slightly faster 3G experience?

    I hope Broadcom succeeds…but winning over the likes of HTC (who counts Qualcomm as an investor), Samsung and Apple (who each make their own CPUs), and will not be easy.

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