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Nvidia announces Icera 500 LTE modem for later this year, full integration with Grey in 2013

May 26, 2012

Earlier this week, Nvidia has disclosed that their Icera 410 LTE modem has been approved for AT&T’s network. This is a big step forward for Nvidia’s Tegra chips, which so far have lacked any sort of integration with LTE chips. It’s too bad that it took Nvidia so long, because Qualcomm took advantage of their edge in this area, and sold more S4 chips with integrated LTE than they can supply by the end of the year.

Nvidia also announced that the Icera 500 LTE modem will be available by the end of the year, but there’ll still be no full integration with the Tegra 3 chips. For now, the modem will just go alongside the Tegra 3 SoC, and we can expect full integration to be available in the Grey chip next year.

We still don’t really know what Grey stands for. Is it Tegra 4? That seems a little unlikely, since Nvidia generally calls the Tegra 4 chip Wayne, and I doubt they are using two codenames for one product. My guess is Grey is yet another overclocked version of the Tegra 3 (maybe at 2 Ghz), or a future version of Tegra 4 that has full LTE integration.

Once again, Nvidia has lost the battle with time, so now they are stuck with Tegra 3 until Q1 or even Q2 of next year, when their Cortex A15-based Tegra 4 will be ready. Until then, they have no choice but to overclock both their CPUs and GPUs in a bid to stay as competitive as possible.

Still, I doubt the Santa Clara-based company will manage to perform well at the high-end. This is probably why we’re seeing Nvidia promote the low-cost $200 tablets and lower-cost phones with Tegra 3, that should be available by the end of the year. Also by the end of the year, Nvidia should move to Tegra 3+, probably built on the 28nm technology, which should cut costs, while improving performance and battery efficiency.

But, at least until Tegra 4 arrives, I expect Exynos 5 and S4 chips to remain the top dogs at the high-end.