Qualcomm Goes All In With Revolutionary “All Mode” RF Solutions

Qualcomm (QCOM) is taking a page from the pharma industry playbook—bypassing their customers and marketing straight to end consumers.  Right from Qualcomm’s “Powered by Snapdragon” inscriptions on the devices to the recent 5G vision, also look for QCOM to further market its All-mode & RF front-end to consumers as “TruSignal” technologies alongside its Snapdragon branding.  It is not an easy task as consumers are more aware of cores & CPU specs.  But, one could argue that efficiency with data streams, MIMO and Carrier Aggregation (CA) have as much or more direct impact on the user experience as well as device’s battery life.

How it works:  The global mode solution gives access to all bands/modes in China and the world including: LTE-TDD, LTE-FDD, TD-SCDMA, WCDMA, GSM and 1xRTT/DO.  It will be especially beneficial for Chinese OEMs looking to broaden their sales outside of China with a limited amount of additional variants.

There are many reasons it is helpful and timely for consumers, operators & OEMs to have an easily customizable, All Mode device:

  •  For Consumers: The Open channel is increasing in size.  Many countries, similar to US and China, have witnessed subsidies being reduced or going away altogether.  All mode devices give increasingly savvy consumers better purchasing choices with the ability to purchase a mobile device and then find the most appropriate operator.
  • For Operators: Number of band & band combinations has increased over 8x from 3G rollout up to today.  LTE rollout has been much faster than previous generation upgrades.  The complexity and tight integration of QCOMs solution benefits operators during the swift LTE rollout.
  •  For OEMs: The landscape has progressively become more difficult and gross margins have been diminishing.  All mode allows OEMs to reduce R&D costs by reducing the number of variants needed.  Yes, there is a BOM penalty for each device.  But, that is spread over potentially larger TAMs and will help business cases.  It is something Apple has taken to another level.  Single SKUs allow OEMs to decrease time to market—allowing for truly global launches.  Faster time to market often means healthier ASPs.  It also helps OEMs reduce liabilities as it is easier to repurpose to best-selling regions during end-of-life.

There are other benefits for OEMs.  The optimized integration at the system level allows for better performance, lower power consumption, and a reduced footprint.  Finally, there are also 16 Dual SIM combinations available.

Look for QCOM to continue to market its RF360 technology antenna boost technology as TruSignal technology to consumers.  RF has become an increasing pain point for consumers—poor signals & dropped calls.  This has progressively become a bigger problem as phone designs have become thinner, with shrinking antennas, metal designs becoming standard, and more higher band configurations.  QCOM excels as RF becomes more integrated and complex.  The solution is ahead of carrier LTE Advanced rollouts as it can support up to 3 bands in carrier aggregation mode.

OEMs have seen the value in marketing the technology for QCOM.  During Microsoft’s unveiling of the Lumia 950, it was the first differentiating feature the company discussed.  LG has also marketed TruSignal taking a jab at the iPhone—it does not matter how one holds the phone.  LG also markets the phone as having unprecedented call and network quality.

Further, QCOM announced a $3b joint venture with TDK in mid-January to develop front-end modules & filters.  The JV will give QCOM an end-to-end solution and an entrance into the expanding filter market not only within smartphones, but also drones, automotive, wireless charging and IoT.  QOM will own 51% of the RF360 Holdings JV and have access to its patents, filter/module design, and manufacturing assets.  It will not surprise us if QCOM exercises its option to buy out the remaining 49% of the JV after 30 months.

QCOM Modem RF Front End Solution

Source: Qualcomm

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