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Qualcomm India's Dr. Avneesh Agrawal on 4G, Snapdragon and more [Interview]

Dr. Avneesh Agrawal, senior vice president, Qualcomm Technologies and president, Qualcomm India and South Asia shares details on their SOCs, state of 4G in India and focus on affrodable smart devices

Qualcomm India's Dr. Avneesh Agrawal on 4G, Snapdragon and more [Interview]

We got a chance to talk to Qualcomm on how they see the Indian market, their approach towards multi-core SoCs for the value segment and some of their latest initiatives to help manufacturers in offering efficient mobile devices.

Given that Qualcomm is at the center of the implementation of LTE-TDD in India, what is the current state in terms of the technology implementation and what are the biggest challenges to get LTE off the ground in India? By when do you see India implementing LTE-TDD at a national level?

In India, Bharti Airtel launched their commercial LTE-TDD network with multimode dongles based on Qualcomm Technologies’ MDM9x00 in Kolkata, Bangalore and Pune. In October last year, Qualcomm, Bharti Airtel and Huawei announced the first multi-mode LTE-TDD smartphone in India—Huawei Ascend P1 LTE—based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 processor, which is CSFB-ready. Huawei, ZTE, BandRich and Quanta announced LTE-TDD multimode devices based on Qualcomm Technologies’ MDM9x00 chipset in August 2011. Qualcomm Technologies has developed the world’s first integrated multi-mode (HSPA, EV-DO, FDD/TDD LTE) chip. India’s mobile broadband needs can only be met when 3G HSPA/EV-DO & LTE work in harmony to provide the best solution for coverage and capacity. 3G HSPA/EV-DO must be the underlay that provides widescale coverage while LTE will be deployed in dense areas for additional capacity. While LTE is expected to become more prevalent in the long term, most Indian operators are focused on maximizing the value and performance of their 3G HSPA/EV-DO services to ensure consumers have a fantastic mobile broadband experience. Qualcomm has played a key role in contributing to India’s wireless revolution by making mobile communication affordable and accessible and is now dedicated to working with operators and partners to accelerate the growth of mobile broadband in India with 3G HSPA, EV-DO and LTE.

On the power efficiency front, we have seen the implementation of asynchronous multi-processing in the Krait CPU. What else is Qualcomm doing to further improve the efficiency to deliver mobile devices with better battery life?

As a mobile computing company, Qualcomm knows that tight integration of hardware and software is now, and will continue to be, a very important consideration for device manufacturers. We build our processors from the ground up for mobility and so Qualcomm is able to build specific software solutions along with our hardware. Our software expertise yields better user experiences like faster Web browsing and page downloads, as well as optimal battery life. Moving forward, expanding our own software expertise and working closely with our growing network of development partners will be a critical catalyst for our continued success in mobile computing.

Qualcomm has been very successful in the SoC space, thanks to the S4 series of processors. Can you share some details on the latest announcement of MSM8226 and MSM8626 processors and the class of devices they will be targeting?

Qualcomm Technologies is adding two chipsets to the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 family of mobile processors specifically designed for high-volume smartphones—the MSM8226 and MSM8626 chipsets—along with Qualcomm Reference Design versions of both. These Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processors with quad-core CPUs will bring premium multimedia and connectivity features to high-volume 3G handsets. Featuring the powerful Adreno 305 GPU, 1080p capture and playback, and up to a 13 megapixel camera, the MSM8226 and MSM8626 processors are optimized to deliver visually stunning graphics and exceptionally long battery life to high-volume smartphones.

Building on Qualcomm Technologies’ previous quad-core offering, both the MSM8226 and MSM8626 processors are fabricated using the 28nm technology node and will continue to support multi-SIM capabilities with Dual SIM, Dual Standby; and Dual SIM, Dual ActiveIn addition to quad-core CPU processing power, these chipsets incorporate the new WTR2605 multi-mode radio transceiver, optimized to offer 40 percent power savings and 60 percent smaller footprint compared to previous generations.

Qualcomm Technologies will also be releasing Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) versions of both MSM8226 and MSM8626 processors. QRD brings together the value of the mobile industry leader with specific products, features and programs for emerging markets. Device manufacturers should not have to trade off quality and innovation for price. The QRD program offers Qualcomm’s leading technical innovation, differentiated hardware and software, easy customization options that save engineering costs and speed time to market, access to an ecosystem of hardware and software providers, and testing and acceptance readiness for regional and leading operator requirements.

The Snapdragon S4 Pro vs the Exynos 5250, the latest dual-core SoC from Samsung, your thoughts?

Qualcomm has been leading in smartphone and mobile performance and will continue to do so because we take a no compromise approach and build our products from the ground-up for mobile. At Qualcomm, we believe that consumers measure performance in terms of user experience. Most consumers don’t know how many CPU cores are in their mobile processor and they don’t really want to know. They just want the best user experience possible – fast apps, seamless connectivity, rich multimedia and all day plus battery life. To deliver these great experiences that consumer demand, you need to custom design all the key components (e.g., CPU, GPU, modem, audio, video cores) and integrate them into a complete system. In fact, our highly integrated, multicore processors consistently beat the competition in third-party benchmark reviews and user experience testing. For example, our Snapdragon S4 8960 processor, featuring a dual-core Krait CPU, outperforms the competitors’ quad-core solutions in the majority of third-party benchmark reviews.

How soon can we expect Qualcomm to enter the PC(laptops) space?

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processors combine integrated multimode 3G/4G-LTE with multiple CPU and GPU configurations, providing maximum design flexibility and the ability to support a range of device types and segments. As a result, in addition to seeing Qualcomm technology integrated into tablets and smartphones, it could also be integrated into PCs, set-top boxes, televisions and a wide range of other exciting connected consumer products. Ultimately, it’s the OEMs that determine their product strategy and timing, not us, but we expect to see Snapdragon powering a variety of devices in the future.

With big names like - Intel, Samsung and Nvidia posing a stiff competition in the SoC space, what is Qualcomm doing to stay ahead of the game?

Qualcomm is currently the mobile computing leader when you look at third-party data around unit sales for mobile processors. This sales leadership is validation that succeeding in mobile is about much more than the number of CPU cores; leadership is about being excellent across all dimensions including CPU performance, graphics, connectivity and power efficiency. Unlike many of our competitors, we design our own CPU micro-architecture from the ground-up with mobile requirements in mind. This yields more powerful and efficient devices. For example, we often find Snapdragon’s single-core CPU outperforming dual-core CPU devices from our competitors.

Qualcomm's QRD is an interesting initiative to help smartphone & tablet manufacturers to quickly get products to market, how many Indian vendors is Qualcomm working with currently, can you name a few?

For device manufacturers who need to compete and win in the dynamic high-volume 3G smartphone and tablet market, QRD brings together the value of the mobile industry leader with specific products, features and programs for emerging markets. Device manufacturers should not have to trade off quality and innovation for price. The QRD program offers Qualcomm’s leading technical innovation, differentiated hardware and software, easy customization options that save engineering costs and speed time to market, access to an ecosystem of hardware and software providers, and testing and acceptance readiness for regional and leading operator requirements. In the Indian market, Qualcomm is working with all the leading Indian brands..

While Qualcomm powers a host of latest and popular smartphones (including the entire range of Windows Phone 8 smartphones), what is Qualcomm doing to create awareness among buyers about their processors and reference designs? Can we expect imprinted tags like "Runs on Snapdragon" or "Reference Design by Qualcomm" on smartphones and tablets?

The growing awakening of young consumers and their eye for product detail is leading to a greater awareness about Qualcomm’s products. Today’s consumers are a lot more sophisticated about what goes into their devices. So, I believe we are seeing an awakening in the consumer. We don’t have any current plans for imprinted branding on devices.

How bullish is Qualcomm on the low-end smartphone and tablet market (we are looking at sub-10k)?

We are quite bullish on the affordable 3G smartphone and tablet opportunity in India which has low penetration of PCs and laptops. Qualcomm has played a key role in catalyzing India’s wireless revolution by making mobile communication affordable and accessible. We believe many Indians will get their first experience of mobile Internet and computing on a 3G smartphone, since smartphone affordability is a reality today. Qualcomm Snapdragon processors are leading this trend by enabling affordable 3G smartphones at sub Rs. 5,000 price point and 3G tablets below Rs. 10,000.

According to this WSJ article Qualcomm has invested heavily in Sharp which is into making displays. Will this eventually turn out into a new business division for Qualcomm sometime in the future for making tablets or ebook readers?

Qualcomm recently announced the expansion of our display technology development between Qualcomm’s wholly-owned subsidiary Pixtronix, Inc. and Sharp Corporation. The goal is to develop and commercialize high-quality color, low-power MEMS displays incorporating IGZO- based display (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) technology and utilizing existing LCD manufacturing infrastructure. In addition, Qualcomm is making an equity investment in Sharp Corporation. As a result of the equity investment, Qualcomm will become a minority shareholder in Sharp.

Expanding our existing relationship with Sharp to jointly commercialize new MEMS display technologies will help both companies realize their shared goal of driving high-performance, lower power displays for a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets.


Dr. Avneesh Agrawal, Senior Vice President, Qualcomm Technologies and President, Qualcomm India and South Asia
 



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