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7 Trends You’ll See at MWC 2016

The early January Las Vegas-based Consumer Electronics Show is becoming an increasingly common place for cellular industry-targeting chip, software, and systems companies to ply their newest wares. Yet the late February Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress (MWC) show remains the dominant conference for wireless applications. This year's event takes place next week, February 22-25 to be exact. What should you expect to hear announced there? Glad you asked

LTE bandwidth improvements
4G LTE cellular data deployments are now pervasive worldwide; even low-end modern smartphones such as Motorola’s (Lenovo’s) first-generation Moto E and first- and second-generation G, which supported only 3G technologies, have been replaced by LTE-cognizant successors. However, LTE's implementation flexibility affords a steady stream of bandwidth improvements, assuming both the handset and carrier support them. Take LTE-A (LTE Advanced, specifically LTE Cat.4 and above, and also known as 4G+), for example, which employs techniques such as carrier aggregation (bundling multiple radio channels together) to boost transfer speeds. To-date adoption in the United States is limited, with more aggressive rollouts overseas; worldwide coverage is anticipated to steadily broaden in the coming years.

Carrier support means little without corresponding handset support, of course. 2014-era Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets comprehended entry-level “150 Mbps” Cat.4 LTE-A, for example; last year's “S” successors handle the “300 Mbps” Cat.6 upgrade. A flurry of LTE-A hardware announcements is anticipated at MWC, both in the form of upgrades to prior-generation hardware that handled only baseline LTE, and updates that support faster LTE-A speeds. As another indicator of where smartphones and cellular data-supportive tablets may soon be headed, check out Qualcomm’s latest announcement unveiled ahead of MWC last week. The Snapdragon X16 LTE modem and companion WTR5975 RF transceiver handle LTE-A all the way up to “1 Gbps” Cat.16, along with supporting channel bonding on both FDD and TDD LTE deployments for worldwide compatibility.

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