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Summary:

New tweaks to Qualcomm’s silicon designs have produced not only a mobile processor capable of supporting Ultra HD, but also a baseband chip that can tap into the world’s fastest networks.

Snapdragon generic

Qualcomm hasn’t yet tackled the octuple-core mobile processor yet, but on Wednesday it did announce some significant improvements to its application processor line as well as the baseband chips that connect phones to the network.

Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 805, a quad-core processor with an improved CPU design based on its Krait architecture. Each core can run at clock speeds as high 2.5 GHz, which Qualcomm Technologies EVP and co-President Cristiano Amon said was an industry first.

Sony Ultra HDTVOn the multimedia front, Qualcomm has designed the new Snapdragon to support Ultra HD resolutions and 4K video rendering thanks its new Adreno 420 graphics processing unit, which Amon said is 40 percent faster than its GPU predecessors. Though Ultra HD may not seem that useful on a phone, eventually smartphones and tablets will be used as multimedia appliances to feed content to external displays. The new Adreno supports advanced features like hardware tessellation and geometry shading, which Amon said will not only improve the video and gaming experience but allow for more stunning user interfaces.

Unlike its Snapdragon 800 predecessor, the 805 isn’t an integrated chip combining the baseband with the applications processor. Instead Qualcomm is pairing two different modems with the 805, which take into account the growing variation in LTE networks being launched all over the world.

Both modems support the new LTE-Advanced technique carrier aggregation, which lets networks transmit over two separate LTE networks simultaneously, but Qualcomm’s newest baseband, called the Gobi 9×35, is intended to work with the beefier networks going up in Asia, Europe and the U.S. It’s Qualcomm’s first modem to support downlink and uplink transmissions over two aggregated 20 MHz channels. Phones and tablets with this modem will not only be able to tap into the full 150 Mbps of theoretical bandwidth on Verizon’s new LTE monster, as well as SK Telecom and Everything Everywhere’s new 4G systems, but also multiple network configurations with speeds as high as 300 Mbps.

In addition, the 9×35 is Qualcomm’s first LTE category 6 chips, which means it has a few other tricks up its sleeve, such as support for four antenna designs, if a vendor chooses to implement them. Technically these chips could support theoretical connection speeds of 600 Mbps. Our LTE networks still have to catch up, though.

LTE category speed chart

Both the Snapdragon 805 and the new Gobi modem are sampling with device makers today, and Qualcomm expects them to appear in commercial handsets in the first half of 2014. That means we’ll probably see phones and tablets powered by this silicon at CES.

Correction: This post was updated at 7:45 AM PT to correct some bandwidth figures.

  1. Does this mean that it can use bandwidth from WiFi and 4G/3G at the same time?

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    1. No, it’s probably more accurate to say that you’re able to use different LTE Channels in different parts of the spectrum as one logical channel.

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      1. Hi Joe,

        Dilip is right. Think of carrier aggregation as a way of accessing multiple LTE networks at the same time. As for using both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G, it’s possible. Our phones use both radios simultaneously all the time — hotspot mode. There are apps for the PC you can download that will allow you to use both as data channels at the same time, so I imagine they’re coming to the phone as well.

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        1. Ok, thanks, so if I’m directly in between two towers, than instead of just connecting to one and getting ‘bad’ service, I can potentially connect to both and get ‘not so bad’ service?

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          1. Not with this technology. Carrier Agg will allow your device to tap two frequencies from the same tower, say Verizon’s current network at 700 MHz and its new network in the 1700/2100 MHz band.

            There is an LTE-Advanced technology in the works called CoMP, which will do what you described though. It’s still a few years away.

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  2. ok. thanks for the great info.

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