In the middle of 2011, NVIDIA acquired a small company by the name of Icera, a maker of baseband and RF technologies that would eventually allow the company to integrate the two into a single chip. As LTE-capable devices from Verizon, AT&T and even Sprint have been announced and ship, no NVIDIA Tegra-powered phone or tablet has been able to support the feature with the lone exception of the ZTE Mimosa X in February of this year.
Today NVIDIA officially announced support and validation from AT&T on their new and growing LTE network for the Icera 410 LTE multimode chipset. This will finally allow Tegra + LTE devices to be sold and available in the US and other markets when product manufacturers integrate the two processors in future designs.
As to when we will see those designs, we aren’t quite sure but nothing was announced during the NVIDIA investors day today. All we know now is that they will be coming "through this year and next."
“Validation with AT&T is an achievement that paves the way for NVIDIA Icera-powered LTE devices on the AT&T network through this year and next,” said Stan Boland, senior vice president of Mobile Communications at NVIDIA.
The NVIDIA Icera 410 LTE modem delivers lightning-fast web browsing, video streaming and multiplayer gaming to tablets and clamshell devices. It is the first Icera modem to implement 4G LTE in NVIDIA’s software defined radio baseband processor. Together with its multimode radio transceiver, the chipset offers 4G LTE at category 2 data rates (up to 50 Mbps) as well as 4G HSPA+, 3G and 2G compatibility.
What we DID learn at the NVIDIA investors meeting is that Mike Rayfield, GM of Tegra business unit, things we’ll see as many as 30 Tegra 3 based devices for sale this year.
NVIDIA has 30 devices planned for the year. So far, we’ve seen just two. Of those 30 devices, some 15 will be planned for sub-$200 pricing. That’s certainly the sweet spot for impulse purchases.
NVIDIA’s also looking to make inroads into the Chinese market, with 18 of those 30 tablets targeted for the Asian nation. By comparison, NVIDIA only released five devices in China in 2011, Rayfield said.
The big name to know for the rest of the year is Kai. That’s the low-cost, high-performance system that NVIDIA is crowing about these days, and it’s what will help bring prices down while keeping prices at a more affordable level. Will there be higher-performing tablets? Sure. But will they be $200?
Producing a number of devices, like 30, is impressive but without context the fact means very little. How many of these devices are going to tablets and how many are phones? How many will be running the Microsoft Win RT operating system for ARM due out in fall?
Speaking of Icera though, NVIDIA also showed the roadmap for LTE integration including the upcoming Icera i500 LTE controller for high-end phones and tablets with newly planned integration directly on the Tegra core in a new chip called "Grey". This new processor will run parallel with the planned 2013 release of "Wayne" though it will be targeted at smartphones and lower end tablets; Wayne is planned to find its way into higher end tablets and the onslaught of clamshells we’ll see with Windows RT.
There is a lot more to learn and we expect see more news come our way as we approach Computex in Taipei!