Samsung Building Its Own 4G Chips

The company will bypass paying royalties to the likes of Qualcomm by manufacturing its own WiMax and LTE chips.
In a move to reduce the costs of next-generation handsets, Samsung Electronics will be making its own WiMax and LTE baseband chips.

Samsung is one of the largest handset manufacturers in the world, and it currently uses chips from the likes of Broadcom, Infineon, and Qualcomm. But the company already has experience building its own application processors, and it wants to reduce the amount of patent royalties it has to pay.

The company used to rely primarily on Qualcomm chips because Qualcomm owns much of the intellectual property related to the 3G CDMA standard. But Samsung diversified its chipsets last year to include Broadcom and Infineon, which reportedly do not depend on Qualcomm patents.

Samsung will likely still have to rely on many Qualcomm chips for the next few years, as the transition to 4G networks will take awhile. But Samsung may find room to operate in the mobile chip space, as Texas Instruments said earlier this year it would sell off its wireless baseband division. Freescale also said it would consider selling its wireless chip business.

"We are also trying to develop competitive multimedia chipsets to support various multimedia functions," Young Cho Chi, senior VP of strategic planning for Samsung, told EE Times.

Samsung said it will stay technologically agnostic for the next generation of mobile broadband, but many see a brewing battle between WiMax and LTE. Many of the major telecoms around the world have backed LTE, partly because of its theoretical 100-Mbps download speed. The technology is still being established, and it's not expected to be widely deployed until 2010 at the earliest.

But Comcast, Intel, Google, Sprint, Time Warner, and others are backing WiMax. While WiMax potentially has a slower maximum download speed, it's already live in Baltimore and is expanding to other markets.

To help further understand the factors contributing to next-generation wireless technologies, InformationWeek has published an analysis of the 4G landscape. Download the report here (registration required).