Sometimes Long-Term Evolution wireless is presented as the future of mobile, and the answer to network incompatibility. That's half true. While LTE and GSM tend to play nice (or at least nicer than the entirely disparate GSM and CDMA standards) the bands and frequencies used for high-speed wireless access vary pretty widely in different countries, or here in the US, across different networks. Chip OEM Qualcomm is hoping to banish network anxiety with a new family of LTE radios, christened RF360. You can expect to see the radios embedded on future Snapdragon platforms.

The RF360 will work across a staggering amount of standard frequency ranges: GSM, CDMA and WCDMA, EV-DO, and an impressive array of LTE bands. It's the wireless equivalent of the 40-plug charger you see in the bargain bin at Radio Shack. A dynamic matching tuner, integrated amplifier switch, and 3D-RF packaging should improve reception Qualcomm is also tooting its horn about the power-saving capabilities, smaller footprint, and cheaper production costs of the next-generation radio.

Keep in mind that just having the various bands and frequencies available doesn't mean that you'll be able to hop networks like a digital flea. Carriers, especially in the US and Canada, have been known to place software blocks on hardware that's surplus to their requirements. Feel free to dig through the technical jargon in the press release below.

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 21, 2013


Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., introduced the Qualcomm RF360 Front End Solution, a comprehensive, system-level solution that addresses cellular radio frequency band fragmentation and enables for the first time a single, global 4G LTE design for mobile devices. Band fragmentation is the biggest obstacle to designing today's global LTE devices, with 40 cellular radio bands worldwide.

The Qualcomm RF front end solution comprises a family of chips designed to mitigate this problem while improving RF performance and helping OEMs more easily develop multiband, multimode mobile devices supporting all seven cellular modes, including LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE. The RF front end solution includes the industry's first envelope power tracker for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, a dynamic antenna matching tuner, an integrated power amplifier-antenna switch, and an innovative 3D-RF packaging solution incorporating key front end components.

The Qualcomm RF360 solution is designed to work seamlessly, reduce power consumption and improve radio performance while reducing the RF front end footprint inside of a smartphone by up to 50 percent compared to the current generation of devices. Additionally, the solution reduces design complexity and development costs, allowing OEM customers to develop new multiband, multimode LTE products faster and more efficiently. By combining the new RF front end chipsets with Qualcomm Snapdragon all-in-one mobile processors and Gobi™ LTE modems, Qualcomm Technologies can supply OEMs with a comprehensive, optimized, system-level LTE solution that is truly global.

The Qualcomm RF360 front end solution also represents a significant technological advancement in overall radio performance and design, and it comprises the following components:

  • Dynamic Antenna Matching Tuner (QFE15xx) – The world's first modem-assisted and configurable antenna-matching technology extends antenna range to operate over 2G/3G/4G LTE frequency bands, from 700-2700 MHz. This, in conjunction with modem control and sensor input, dynamically improves the antenna's performance and connection reliability in the presence of physical signal impediments, like the user's hand.
  • Envelope Power Tracker (QFE11xx) – The industry's first modem-assisted envelope tracking technology designed for 3G/4G LTE mobile devices, this chip is designed to reduce overall thermal footprint and RF power consumption by up to 30 percent, depending on the mode of operation. By reducing power and heat dissipation, it enables OEMs to design thinner smartphones with longer battery life.
  • Integrated Power Amplifier / Antenna Switch (QFE23xx) – The industry's first chip featuring an integrated CMOS power amplifier (PA) and antenna switch with multiband support across 2G, 3G and 4G LTE cellular modes. This innovative solution provides unprecedented functionality in a single component, with smaller PCB area, simplified routing and one of the smallest PA/antenna switch footprints in the industry.
  • RF POP™ (QFE27xx) – The industry's first 3D RF packaging solution, integrates the QFE23xx multimode, multiband power amplifier and antenna switch, with all the associated SAW filters and duplexers in a single package. Designed to be easily interchangeable, the QFE27xx allows OEMs to change the substrate configuration to support global and/or region-specific frequency band combinations. The QFE27xx RF POP enables a highly integrated multiband, multimode, single-package RF front end solution that is truly global.

OEM products featuring the complete Qualcomm RF360 Solution are anticipated to be launched in the second half of 2013.

Qualcomm also announced today a new RF transceiver chip, the WTR1625L. The chip is the first in the industry to support carrier aggregation with a significant expansion in the number of active RF bands. The WTR1625L can accommodate all cellular modes and 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE frequency bands and band combinations that are either deployed or in commercial planning globally. Additionally, it has an integrated, high-performance GPS core that also supports GLONASS and Beidou systems. The WTR1625L is tightly integrated in a wafer scale package and optimized for efficiency, offering 20 percent power savings compared to previous generations. The new transceiver, along with the Qualcomm RF360 front end chips, is integral to Qualcomm Technologies Inc.'s single-SKU World Mode LTE solution for mobile devices that are expected to launch in 2013.

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • selonmoi

    Sounds impressive. Something like this would be nice on this next Nexus, though apparently there are non-technical barriers to getting on legacy CDMA networks, at least in the US.

    Oh, writers' pro-tip: 40 is a number, not an amount. It should be "a staggering number of standard frequency ranges", not amount.

    • spydie

      Not sure what you were getting at, but 40 is both a number and an amount.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/psycho_maniac_ Jerry Lange

    Lets hope this means the next nexus will be on vzw :)

    • http://twitter.com/mimrixmike Frettfreak

      Lol. Cause that's the only problem verizon had with their "nexus"?

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      I think you mean, let's hope the next Nexus is everywhere.

  • Quryous


    Well, here is another topic for a White House petition, in addition to the one that just suceeded in requiring the Predident to address unlocking of phones.

    A petition to stop carriers from blocking interoperability and use of ALL bands, to allow carrier hopping, is in order. DEFINITELY.

    • EH101

      When or if that happens, let us know!

      • spydie

        What's the problem? My TV works on all carriers/networks/frequencies. And all networks compete for my money. There's no reason this can't work on a phone. A phone should easily be able to have all the frequencies built-in and allow us to channel surf just like on a car radio. If we want to buy an all-band radio (or phone), we get to choose what frequencies we use. The carriers shouldn't be able to lock our phones onto their frequency if we buy an unsubsidized phone. It's my phone, I should get to choose any frequency I want. Can you imagine buying a radio or TV that's locked to one frequency?

        • EH101

          I believe you misunderstand my intentions, I mean for him(her?) to let us know when the petition goes up. I would gladly sign such a petition.

        • squiddy20

          You obviously missed from the article: "Carriers, especially in the US and Canada, have been known to place software blocks on hardware that's surplus to their requirements." When this radio does eventually come out, you can bet your ass most of the big US carriers (especially Verizon and Sprint) would have this software block.
          You are right though in that carriers "shouldn't be able to lock our phones onto their frequency", but that sad truth is, many do anyway.

        • Asphyx

          I agree with the sentiment of what your saying but must point out that your TV does not actually work on all carriers/network.frequencies....
          Even Cable ready TVs only get a small portion of the channels available on a Cable network without the addition of a set top box or an M-Card.

          Where the TV analogy is appropriate here is you bought a TV that could see a large variety of frequencies (All Band Networks) Most of which are ignored in favor of Channel 3 or 4 that the Cable Box broadcasts it's signal on...
          Qualcomm may have solved this for us and could allow Hardware Manfs to create one unit for all carriers, making production simpler and easier to get on all carriers at once. Those carriers will cripple it the same way a Cable company cripples and only uses a small portion of your TV tuner and so greed will most likely trump technological progress once again.
          Manufacturers have to take thier own stand and realize the Carriers need these devices to work on thier networks so they can suck down the expensive data they sell more than the Manufacturer needs the Carrier to subsidize the purchase of thier hardware. Hardly anyone has bought a Tablet that is subsidized so the Manufacturers should see this is the case.
          Most Tablets are WiFi Only because who wants to deal with and make 5 different products just to work on the different networks.
          This solves that, Most units can now feature WLAN modems that can work on any carrier and as long as they don't cave into the carriers and hardware lock them to a specific band we will finally get what it is we have hoped for for so long.

  • jimas

    Does this mean that an unlocked device using this radio would allow users to jump from one US carrier network to another (apart from non-technical issues) without flashing new firmware?

    • Justin Swanson

      In theory, as long as there isn't software blocks on the phone and as long as the network doesn't require a level of authentication.

    • blumpenstein

      as long as by US carrier you mean between Tmobile and ATT (or regional gsm/lte providers). Sprint/Verizon will be a no-go until they ditch CDMA completely and are entirely LTE / VOLTE. CDMA is vendor lock-in hell, they only activate phones with ESN they sold. That's also why there probably wont be a nexus on verizon again. Google gave them a chance and they shit all over it. Not to mention, having a model of nexus that can't jump carriers defeats the point of a nexus...

  • http://www.facebook.com/Tony.Branch Anthony Branch

    This may actually be good news for the Nexus program. Think about it, you will have to use your phone on a carrier anyway, or a MVNO (Straight Talk) so you pay your normal bill for a carrier signal and gain LTE, or you pay a premium that Straight Talk works out with the carriers for access to their LTE towers. As long as the fee isn't too steep, its a WIN-WIN! You get to have a Nexus w/LTE, and here is the bonus ...on ANY carrier that supplies LTE! Albeit, the folks at Google will have to add the radios that will work on CDMA carriers. Not like that couldn't happen.

  • Asphyx

    Best news I have heard in a long time!

    This is what the Nexus family really needs.

    Lets just hope it means unit can be made to carrier hop and not just mean that it's easy to use one radio in your design and lock it into one system for a carrier. If it can change bands via software that will be the thing we want...If it means it just makes it easier to pick which band the unit uses via Hardware manufacture then I'm not all that excited.

  • Nicholas Polydor

    This is awesome - love the fact that there's both LTE-FDD and LTE-TDD support, and Beidou as well!

  • Tyler

    Does this mean that I can have a Verizon Nexus from the play store?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    This is a step in the right direction.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    Everybody is talking about this going into a Nexus or that it would be great for hopping between providers, but there is another awesome benefit here. With this, carriers who haven't yet adopted a new technology (ie. T-Mobile with LTE) would be able to roll out a new network and fewer consumers wouldn't need to change phones to take advantage of it. To make that even better, if ALL phones had this ability, companies with severely limited cellular bands wouldn't necessarily have to stay with older technologies, they could shut off the older standard and fire up the newer one basically overnight.

  • Stuart

    "While LTE and GSM tend to play nice (or at least nicer than the entirely disparate GSM and CDMA standards)"

    So is GSM good or bad? You have it in both categories. I don't understand.

    • Renard Fiossa

      LTE is the next generation of GSM, that set of standards is far more flexible than having to deal with VZW and Sprint's CDMA network, which in my opinion, is rubbish waaaay past its expiry