LONDON A research note from Deutsche Bank has cast doubts over the ability of early adopter Verizon Wireless to launch a 4G Long-Term Evolution network in up to 35 markets in the U.S. by the end of next year using datacards, and suggests handsets may be even longer delayed.
According to on-line reports, the bank group's analysts are said to have queried Qualcomm's ability to meet targets for shipping chips for the data cards that enable the very high data-rate mobile broadband upgrade.
Verizon has been planning to extend its LTE support from datacards to handsets in 2011.
According to Rethink Wireless the note claims Qualcomm, which is the main supplier of chip sets for products that will run on Verizon's pioneering LTE network, will not have silicon for LTE datacards generally available until 2010, and handset chips will only sample in the middle of next year, and could take a further 18 months or more to get into commercial phones.
Late last year, Qualcomm laid out an aggressive roadmap for readying engineering samples of its initial devices for the Long Term Evolution upgrade to W-CDMA 3G technology, and expects to be sampling selected customers by the second quarter of next year.
However, Enrico Salvatori, senior VP and general manager for Qualcomm Europe, speaking at the company's inaugural European Innovation Summit Wednesday (Dec. 3), cautioned that commercial availability of an LTE/HSPA+ multimode device, dubbed the MDM9000, "still depends on a number of very uncertain factors, many of which are dependent on mobile network operators' plans and investment priorities about how and when to roll out this next stage of wireless technology."
The Deutsche Bank report is said to suggest Qualcomm will sample their first LTE chips in the middle of this year.
"This should make them ready to ship in commercial product by roughly the second half of next year. Their first two chips are the MDM 9200 and MDM 9600. The MDM moniker means they are suitable for data cards. The 9200 will have LTE and HSPA, the 9600 will be trimode with LTE, HSPA and EV-DO Rev B. Qualcomm expects to sample its first chip for LTE handsets in the middle of next year."
It can take 18 months for a handset maker to incorporate a new chip into a product and test it.
As Rethink Wireless notes, if the Deutsche Bank analysis proves correct, it will be difficult for Verizon to keep to its schedule, or at least to offer a competitive range of strong devices.
Qualcomm excels at getting silicon for new platforms into the market ahead of its rivals, so if they are struggling to hit an early 2011 date for handsets , then it is unlikely a competitor will do so either, certainly not one with sufficient scale to satisfy Verizon suppliers like Samsung or, quite probably in the LTE phase, Nokia.
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