The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the glitzy tech-fest that takes place in Las Vegas ever January, is over for another year. Last year LTE featured heavily with many manufacturers choosing to announce their new-fangled LTE handsets there, ahead of the traditional mobile launchpad that is the Mobile World Congress in February.
However, as LTE is starting to become mainstream there was less activity on the LTE front, but there was still enough related announcements to give us something to talk about.
T-Mobile USA is the one major network not to have launched an LTE network yet and its CTO Neville Ray made the revelation that the network would finally be launching its LTE network in a matter of weeks. It’s had 4G for some time of course, via the oh-so-clever ruse of telling everyone that its 42Mbps HSPA+ network was 4G. (It is in fact faster than LTE in spectrum constrained locations, but while HSPA+ is the end of the road for UMTS, LTE is just the start for the technology).
Excitingly for T-Mobile customers the iPhone 5 could finally arriving on the network bringing the network up to date with pretty much everyone else.
Ray hinted that it wanted LTE to have been launched in Las Vegas in time of the show, but it didn’t quite make the schedule. Still, if it does launch, any day now, it’s still in advance of the initial plans that had T-Mobile launch in mid-2013 and the company how hopes to have a total of 100m covered by that time.
The world’s biggest LTE player Verizon also used CES to show off some impressive stats. It’s CEO Lowell McAdam revealed that its LTE network covers 89 per cent of its footprint just two years after it started and it will be finished its roll out mid-2013, well ahead of its rivals.
In car LTE is becoming a thing. At CES Audi unveiled its latest A3 with LTE build in, courtesy of a Gobi multi-mode 3G/LTE Qualcomm chip. “”We will soon be offering a fully integrated LTE link for our Audi connect services in the new Audi A3 in 2013,” said Ricky Hudi, chief Audi executive engineer.”
The integrated LTE will provide connectivity for up to eight devices in the car. That’s impressive considering that only five passengers can fit in the A3 at once. I guess that’s two each for the four passengers and none for the driver, which is probably best.
RIM, owners of the drowning Blackberry brand, also unveiled an LTE related car to showcase its QNX platform, using a black 2012 Bentley Continental GT. Subtle.
Nvidia Tegra 4 chipset
Nvidia gained a lot of attention at CES for its ‘Shield’ concept, a portable games console powered by its Tegra 4 chipset, running Android yet with dedicated gaming controls – essentially a marriage of the PSP concept with an Android smartphone. Of interest to us though was the LTE support in the newly announced Tegra 4.
The Tegra 4 features an Icera soft-modem. The soft-modem has the advantage of being able to be software updated, which can’t be done with a fixed hardware solution, and this will utilised soon as while it support Category 3 LTE at launch, this is said to be updated to Category 4 in due course. However the downside is that it draws more power than fixed hardware, which for today’s currently battery constrained smartphones isn’t good news. As LTE hits the mainstream it will be interesting to see how many smartphone design wins Tegra 4 gets in 2013.