Broadcom got a jump on Mobile World Congress this week, announcing two steps forward in its fledgling LTE silicon business. On Monday, the company introduced a turnkey solution for LTE smartphones to be priced under US$300. On Tuesday, it announced a test, on a live carrier network in Finland, of a high-end handset chip that can use so-called Category 6 LTE with speeds as high as 300Mbps (bits per second).
While going up against market leader Qualcomm in LTE, Broadcom is also pursuing other hot technology trends, including Arm server chips, SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualization). Overseeing all this is President and CEO Scott McGregor, who spoke with IDG News Service on Tuesday. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.
IDGNS: How does Broadcom plan to carve out a place in LTE?
McGregor: One of the advantages Broadcom has always had is the breadth of [intellectual property] we bring to the equation. When we offer a solution for a phone, we basically offer pretty much everything in the phone. It's the baseband, it's the connectivity — Bluetooth, wireless LAN, FM radio, GPS, [near-field communication], and a lot of other new technologies coming out, like wireless charging. We do the radio. We do the processor. ... We pretty much do everything except the commodity memory. We don't know of any competitor that has that breadth in the phone.
The challenge we've had is that we're the relative new kid on the block. I said a couple of years ago that we were going to close the gap with Qualcomm, who is the leader in the market on processors and on baseband functionality. Today's announcement is especially important, because I would say it proves that we've closed the gap on the high-end baseband. Because they were only able to do this same test in a live network a week ago. They beat us by a week? I call that a tie.
IDGNS: How can you translate that into closing the gap business-wise?
McGregor: It's building trust in customers. For a customer to go with a baseband solution from us or anyone else, it's a large investment on their part. There's very much a desire to see diversity of suppliers in the market. Monopoly positions aren't particularly appreciated by the customers. The good news is, we have relationships with all the customers already, through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and all the connectivity chips we do.
IDGNS: What are the prospects for Arm-based processors in servers?
McGregor: It's early days on that. I've learned that CIOs are some of the most risk-averse people on the planet. If they do their job really well, nobody knows who they are, and if they don't do their job really well, they get fired. So they generally don't do radical new projects and new architectures. They wait for somebody else to prove it.
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