Qualcomm chip combines Wi-Fi and LTE in the office and at home

Qualcomm is bringing 4G coverage to offices and homes with a low-cost chip that will power wireless routers with both Wi-Fi and LTE.

The introduction of the FSM90xx SoC (system-on-a-chip) is a change of pace for Qualcomm. When the company entered the small cell sector it did so with high-performing products, but has now started to scale down the underlying technology, according to Dan Rabinovitsj, senior vice president at Qualcomm.

Small cells are mini base stations used to improve coverage and capacity.

With the FSM90xx, Qualcomm is focusing on combining LTE and Wi-Fi for products that can handle between four and 16 users in homes and small and medium-size businesses. The SoC is based on 28-nanometer technology, allowing Qualcomm to improve power consumption and lower the cost.

"We have significantly cut the cost of the silicon. We are pretty, I'd say, ambitious about how fast this can have an impact on the portfolio of products our customers can build," said Rabinovitsj.

The new chip has inherited security features and a software programmable modem from the high-end FSM99xx, which is used by enterprise and metro small cells. When Qualcomm developed the SoC it took advantage of technologies from across the company, including smartphone technology to keep power consumption down.

To offer higher LTE speeds, the chip will use carrier aggregation, a technology that allows networks to devote more resources to some users by treating two channels in the same or different frequency bands as if they were one. The result is twice the speed, on paper.

Qualcomm will also showcase how operators can use carrier aggregation with unlicensed spectrum at 5GHz, which the company is a big proponent of, according to Rabinovitsj.

The FSM90xx will start sampling during the second half of the year, which means Qualcomm will make small volumes of the SoC available to a select number of customers. The first products using the chip are expected to arrive during the second half of 2015, according to Rabinovitsj.

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