The same “future proof” logic seems to be driving Qualcomm to aggressively promote an LTE-Advanced chipset at 20nm process.
“As operators deploy the next generation of LTE Advanced networks, automakers are starting to plan out their vehicle platform upgrade and adoption for this new technology,” a Qualcomm spokeswoman told EE Times. With the announcement of Gobi 9x30, Qualcomm’s LTE-Advanced chipset, “Our Tier-1 and automaker customers can now offer a tiered connected head unit solution,” she added. Carmakers can choose: either 20-nm based LTE (with Gobi9x15) or 28-nm based LTE-Advanced (with Gobi9x30), each of which is pre-integrated with Qualcomm’s QCA6574 for WiFi 802.11ac/p and Bluetooth LE4.0 technologies and Qualcomm’s recently announced automotive-grade Snapdragon 602A apps processor.
By "pre-integration," Qualcomm means providing optimal implementation and control over the automotive system architecture -- including software integration for maximizing throughput, power consumption, and interaction between LTE/3G, WiFi, BT and GNSS functionality.
The ultimate task of the automotive-grade “hardening” for telematics units at the module level, however, is left to module vendors and Tier Ones.
Beyond LTE and LTE-A chipset, it’s worth noting that Qualcomm’s QCA6574 is designed to simultaneously support in-car Wi-Fi hotspot functions and Bluetooth profiles.
Moreover, the wireless chipset also supports DSRC (dedicated short-range communications), a technology required to comply with future regulation recently announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to increase safety through vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. Qualcomm at this point is the only vendor offering DSRC capability in commercial chips.
In-car LTE modem vs. LTE-enabled smartphones
It remains uncertain how vehicles with built-in LTE modems will either collide or mesh with LTE-enabled smartphones on two fronts: applications and network subscription fees.
GM has been very public about offering developers a new set of vehicle application programming interfaces (APIs), in hopes that they will build apps for GM infotainment systems. The GM SDK is said to offer a new application framework that will allow drivers to add apps and features to vehicles after purchase. In fact, GM and AT&T first teamed up in January when GM sponsored a Connected Car Challenge as part of an AT&T Hackathon for mobile app developers in Las Vegas.
GM’s approach, courting software developers to write unique apps for its cars, is different from that of Ford, which offers its own SDK for software developers to write smartphone apps.
One of the biggest challenges for the widespread use of LTE inside cars is the data plan. It will be "difficult [for car OEMs] to compete with the smartphone data plan that most drivers will have," said IHS Automotive’s Juliussen. "If the driver can include the telematics LTE data plan as part of a multi-device plan, that'll help. But in the United States, the mobile network operators are not known for allowing cooperation with their competitors."
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times