New EJL Wireless Research Report on Smartphone RF Content Trends

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Deep Dive Analysis of the Seven Wireless Interfaces of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Apple iPhone 6; Inter-Band Carrier Aggregation Complicates RF Front End Implementation


Inter-Band Carrier Aggregation Complicates RF Front End Implementation

A new report is now available from EJL Wireless Research entitled “Smartphone RF Front-End Content Trends Analysis.” Through the lens of the leadership Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Apple iPhone 6 product families, this 122 page report focuses on the evolution of the seven wireless interfaces now found in high-end smartphones – Frequency Division Duplex Cellular, Time Division Duplex Cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), Near-Field Communication, and Wireless Charging. “This large-scope report on the RF content of the two leading smartphone product families in the world today is one most comprehensive ever written on this subject. Filled with visual information, this report includes 42 tables and 52 exhibits, all created to provide exceptional insight and an analysis edge for our clients”, said Maury Wood, EJL Wireless Research Principal Analyst and author of this new report.

Each of the seven smartphone wireless subsystems is undergoing rapid change. The latest Category 6 LTE-Advanced smartphones, such as the Galaxy S6 family and the next generation iPhone family, are the first to include inter-band carrier aggregation, which complicates the cellular RF front-end (RFFE) implementation, opening up new business opportunities for RF component suppliers. Following China Mobile’s lead, more cellular operators worldwide are adopting TD-LTE technology, and next generation smartphones will very likely support both FDD and TDD inter-band carrier aggregation. This new EJL Wireless Research report is rich with detailed illustrations, showing exactly how module-level RFFE solutions from Avago, Murata, Qorvo, Skyworks and other suppliers support these advanced new features. The RF content impact of antenna tuning using digital tunable capacitors, band filtering using quadplexers, FBAR BAW versus dual SAW duplexer filtering of 700 MHz ATP Band 28 – these and many other deep dive topics are covered in the cellular connectivity portion of this new EJL Wireless Research report.

The Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 were among the first smartphones to including 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi radios, but neither supports the key “Wave 2” multi-user MIMO feature. Both Qualcomm and Broadcom have a short-term first-mover advantage opportunity with MU-MIMO Wave 2 client radios, and with big swings in market share possible. Indoor location positioning uses the resources of both the Wi-Fi subsystem and the GNSS subsystem. Broadcom has made a clever linkage between these two subsystems to optimize indoor location finding performance and this innovation helps Broadcom build a moat around their GNSS chipset position, potentially staving off competitors such as Qualcomm. On the other hand, the emerging License Assisted Access industry initiative may give LTE transceiver leader Qualcomm an opportunity to undermine Broadcom’s Wi-Fi / Bluetooth connectivity dominance. This new report provides powerful insight into these fiercely competitive supplier dynamics.

Smartphones today include receivers for GPS (US), GLONASS (Russia), and Beidou COMPASS (China). New regional satellite navigation systems from Japan (QZSS) and India (IRNSS) are being introduced over the coming several years. These emerging standards are likely to be compatible with existing GNSS receivers, but EJL Wireless finds that additional RF content in the form of enhanced coexistence filters may be needed in next generation smartphones to preserve wireless performance.

The Bluetooth Low Energy / Smart standard is migrating to the new v4.2 revision. This new personal area wireless networking standard revision enables some compelling use cases that leading smartphone OEMs are likely to rapidly adopt and deploy. Bluetooth Smart potentially has a role to play in wireless battery charging as a control and status side-channel mechanism, synergistically linking these two wireless subsystems.

Near Field Communication (NFC) for personal financial transactions using applications such as Apple Pay, Goggle Wallet and Samsung Pay has become a rapidly growing smartphone use case. Samsung Semiconductor now supplies the RF and Secure Element content for the Galaxy S6. Apple uses AMS RF and NXP’s Secure Element components in the iPhone 6. Qualcomm has recently announced a cooperation agreement with NXP to extend both companies’ NFC ecosystems. EJL Wireless Research expects that the competition among Samsung, Apple, NXP and Qualcomm for NFC RF and Secure Element design wins in 2016 smartphones will intensify, leaving little opportunity for smaller suppliers such as AMS.

There are currently four wireless power standards competing for the smartphone battery charging function. It is easy to appreciate the convenience of this feature, but no supplier or smartphone OEM wants to find themselves on the losing end of yet another Betamax/VHS standards battle. There are clear points of differentiation between magnetic induction charging systems versus magnetic resonance charging systems. While magnetic resonance (MR) battery charging technology has been slower to penetrate the market, EJL Wireless Research finds that MR will likely prevail, and that eventual adoption by Apple of the winning standard is likely.

EJL Wireless Research’s new report forecasts the trends impacting all smartphone wireless interfaces, and introduces the proprietary RFFE Complexity Factor™ metric to help set context for the rapid increase in smartphone RF content, complexity and supplier business opportunity. This new report includes a comprehensive Appendix with more than 850 communications industry acronyms defined.

About EJL Wireless Research LLC
EJL Wireless Research LLC provides proprietary, accurate, and cutting-edge market analysis and consulting services on the wireless technology ecosystem and defense and aerospace industries. The firm's wireless infrastructure research division focuses on all vertical elements of the wireless ecosystem including mobile subscribers, mobile operators, mobile handsets, mobile infrastructure and mobile content. In addition, the firm provides analysis across horizontal technology suppliers including RF semiconductor materials, RF semiconductor/components, subsystems and OEMs. Similarly, the defense and aerospace division focuses its efforts on the ecosystem supporting UAV and airborne platforms and subsystems. Our goal is to provide our clients with mission critical market analysis and information.

EJL Wireless Research LLC believes it has a corporate responsibility, both local and international, in giving back to the community. Please visit our website for more information about the charitable organizations it supports at:

EJL Wireless Research LLC is managed by Earl Lum. Mr. Lum has 20+ years of experience within the wireless industry including 8 years as an Equity Research Analyst on Wall Street covering the global wireless industry. The company is headquartered in Salem, NH. For more information about EJL Wireless Research, please visit the company’s websites at, or our weblog at

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