3GSM - Qualcomm, Atheros team up for dual-mode phones

3GSM - Qualcomm, Atheros team up for dual-mode phones

Qualcomm is teaming up with Atheros on a reference design for cell/Wi-Fi phones.

Qualcomm is teaming up with networking silicon vendor Atheros Communications on a reference design for dual-mode cell and Wi-Fi phones, the companies announced Friday.

The design, which the companies expect to ship to handset makers starting in June, combines an Atheros single-chip Wi-Fi client with Qualcomm chipsets for cellular networks in both the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) technology families. The vendors expect handsets based on the reference design to ship by the end of this year, said Todd Antes, vice president of marketing at Atheros, in Santa Clara, California. The design will be demonstrated to potential customers at the 3GSM World Congress next week in Barcelona, Spain, he said.

Putting both wireless LAN and cellular capability in one phone will power an inevitable trend of consumers using a single phone and switching off to VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) when they come home, said Eddie Hold, an analyst at Current Analysis, in Virginia. That shift should help users get rid of their landline phones and pay less for the calls they make at home, Hold said. It may also lead to better call quality for those who currently use their cell phones at home, where indoor cell coverage is poor in many areas, he said.

Some cell phone makers, such as Samsung Electronics, have already jumped into this trend with some high-end handsets, but the Qualcomm-Atheros deal marks the entry of two of the biggest names in both technology fields, said Current Analysis analyst Peter Jarich. Having the silicon vendors integrate cellular and Wi-Fi will make it easier and less expensive for phone makers to come out with dual-mode devices, he said. The timetable laid out by Qualcomm and Atheros is very aggressive, Jarich said.

The reference design will come in several forms, according to the companies. Qualcomm will offer two versions of its Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chipset for the design, Antes said. The MSM6550 supports GSM, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and CDMA versions up to EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized). The MSM6280 supports GSM, GPRS, EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), Wideband CDMA and HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access). The Radio-on-Chip for Mobile (ROCm) chip that Atheros is including comes in IEEE 802.11g and 802.11a/g versions. The vendors look to later expand their reference design offerings with other chip versions, Antes said.

ROCm is a specialized Wi-Fi client for handheld devices, designed for small size and low power consumption, Antes said. It is designed for gaming devices, cameras and mobile multimedia players in addition to cell phones, and products that use it should begin hitting the market this quarter, he said.

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