The next generation of LTE chips are all about the upload

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This week Qualcomm unveiled its next generation LTE modem, which boasts another big theoretical boost in download speeds up to 450 Mbps. But in this announcement Qualcomm made special note of a feature that has long been ignored in 4G: upload speeds.

Why? In an interview earlier this year, [company]Intel[/company] chief wireless technologist Ken Stewart explained that the upstream component of the network was never the biggest priority when LTE standards because the use cases the industry envisioned were things like video and app downloads. But as we move toward cloud services, video chat and many more applications that require symmetric bandwidth, the uplink has taken on new importance, Stewart said.

Consequently, the radio chipmakers are looking to leap over several iterations of the LTE standard to get to devices that have beefier uplink capabilities. The chip Qualcomm just announced — in standards-speak — supports category 10 LTE, which means it can use an LTE-Advanced technique called carrier aggregation to send data to the tower over two separate transmissions on different frequencies.

We’re already starting to see carrier aggregation used in the downlink in Asia and Europe (and we’ll soon see it here in the U.S.). As the standards progress, carrier aggregation will get more sophisticated. Category 10 devices will be able to bond three downlink channels together as well as two uplink channels. Eventually we’ll arrive at a point at which a smartphone or tablet can simultaneously send and receive over every frequency a carrier has access to, giving us some truly impressive bandwidths.

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