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LTE-integrated Tegra 4i increases NVIDIA’s addressable market

by Sravan Kundojjala | 2月 19, 2013

Today NVIDIA announced its first baseband-integrated applications processor Tegra 4i, which is the first significant product from its acquisition of soft modem design firm Icera in 2011. We have analysed NVIDIA’s acquisition of Icera in a separate blog post. Also, Strategy Analytics analysed Icera’s soft modem technology in an in-depth report.

The Tegra 4i product, designed in 28 nm, integrates 2.3 GHz quad-core R4 ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a companion power saving core, 60 core GPU and, most importantly, Icera multi-mode LTE modem (optimised version of Icera i500 stand-alone LTE baseband) functionality. The 2.3GHz quad-core R4 Cortex-A9 was jointly designed by NVIDIA and ARM.  NVIDIA claims that the Tegra 4i’s core size is half the size of its nearest quad-core LTE competitor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800).

The Tegra 4i supports FDD-LTE, TD-LTE and also legacy air interfaces HSPA+/TD-SCDMA/EDGE/GPRS/GSM. The product also supports VoLTE standard and is expected to appear in commercial devices in Q4 2013.

With Tegra 4i, NVIDIA will join the elite LTE-integrated applications processor club. So far Qualcomm is the only mobile chip company that is shipping LTE applications processors in volume. Qualcomm’s 28 nm-based LTE Snapdragon processor MSM8960 gained strong traction in 2012 and featured in multiple LTE smartphone flagships. ST-Ericsson (L8540 and L8580) and Renesas (MP6530) also announced LTE applications processors that are expected to be commercially available by Q4 2013. Samsung, GCT Semiconductor, Sequans, Altair Semiconductor, Intel, Broadcom, Spreadtrum and Marvell have all announced / shpping slim LTE modems but haven’t yet announced LTE applications processors. MediaTek is also expected to field its first LTE applications processor in 2013-14 time frame.

The Tegra 4i is a step in the right direction for NVIDIA to be a significant player in the mobile processor market. Based on our estimates, NVIDIA has less than 1 percent share in the baseband market and less than 2 percent share in the smartphone applications processor market. However, NVIDIA maintained its lead in the non-iPad tablet market with a one-third share in tablet applications processors in Q3 2012.

We’ve been saying for a while that baseband-integration is necessary to capture bigger volume in the smartphone applications processor market. Based on our estimates, baseband-integrated applications processors accounted for 62 percent of total smartphone applications processors shipped in Q3 2012. The Tegra 4i product increases NVIDIA’s addressable market and focusing on LTE certainly makes sense.  We estimate that LTE basebands showed fastest growth among all air interface technologies and accounted for 18 percent of total cellular baseband revenue in 2012, up from just 2 percent in 2011.

Today NVIDIA also announced its “Phoenix” reference platform, which is based on Tegra 4i. Smartphones based on this reference platform are expected to pack 5-inch 1080p displays with 8mm thicknesss profile. Strategy Analytics believes that the low-to-mid range market is currently driven by reference designs. Companies including Qualcomm, MediaTek, Spreadtrum, Intel and Broadcom are already active with reference design programmes in order to promote their chipset offerings. NVIDIA needs to fight these companies to build share.

Overall, we’re impressed with NVIDIA’s ability to bring a leading-edge LTE applications processor to the market while some baseband companies are still trying to bring out their first LTE slim modem. The Tegra 4i is definitely a step in the right direction and certainly increases NVIDIA’s addressable market and also provides some competition to LTE market leader Qualcomm.

Sravan.K Kundojjala

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