updated 11:50 am EST, Tue February 21, 2012
Qualcomm fifth-gen Gobi chipset arrives
Qualcomm on Tuesday unveiled what might be one of its most important cellular chipsets in its fifth-generation Gobi reference design. The new version is the first to support multiple bands of LTE on a single chipset, including both regular LTE and the TD-LTE being used in China and some North American carriers. The hardware also has 3G support for both HSPA+ and EVDO, making the chips true world-roaming devices.
The platform is meant mostly for larger but still thin designs, such as tablets and ultraportable notebooks. Qualcomm is promising support for "leading operating systems" such as Android and Windows 8 as well as both ARM and Intel chips. At least publicly, the initial confirmed plans were for external and embedded modems from Novatel, Option, Sierra Wireless, and ZTE.
Qualcomm didn't say how soon these would be in the market.
The Gobi addition, as well as the related MDM9215 and MDM9615 chipsets it's based on, could be vital for Apple given late, high-profile rumors of an iPad 3 with multi-carrier LTE. Apple often wants to consolidate its lineup to as few models as possible and may want just one cellular-ready iPad 3 to supply North America, Europe, and southeast Asia with 4G while still allowing for 3G in other regions.
Whether or not Qualcomm is ready is still a concern, and the size as well as power concerns of a full Gobi chipset would keep Apple from its recent strategy of reusing cellular hardware from the iPad in an iPhone refresh the same year.