Qualcomm today announced new MDM base station chipsets (the technology that powers base stations and towers), all three of which offer support for future LTE technology, as well as backwards support for CDMA and GSM/UMTS networks. The MDM9200 is an LTE-only chipset, meant for new networks. The MDM9600 offers backwards-compatibility with GSM and UMTS networks (as well as HSPA technologies). Finally, the MDM9400 offers LTE as well as CDMA (with EV-DO Rev A, B , and UMB support).
Offering such a path could be one of the last nails in UMB’s (EV-DO Rev C) coffin. The technology has failed to gain support from a single carrier in the United States, and has struggled to gain even minimal support abroad. Qualcomm may be aiming to embrace LTE as an effort to defeat WiMAX, a technology which itself has claimed victory over UMB, and is a direct competitor to LTE. Unlike LTE, Qualcomm has little room to play in WiMAX, as companies including Intel and Motorola dominate the chipset field.
Despite MDM9400 offering UMB support, such a solution is trivial for Qualcomm to add to the chipset, since Qualcomm ensures backwards-compatibility in their EV-DO protocol. It does however, keep the door open for carriers to gradually upgrade to UMB, and then choose to move to LTE if UMB does prove to be a failure.
Qualcomm expects to begin shipping all three chipsets in the second quarter of 2009. This is consistent with general availability timelines for first-generation LTE hardware and devices.