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Qualcomm: We will solve 4G roaming problem this year

The chip manufacturer talks at Mobile World Congress about a new product it claims will solve LTE fragmentation.

Jason Jenkins Director of content / EMEA
Jason Jenkins is the director of content for CNET in EMEA. Based in London, he has been writing about technology since 1999 and was once thrown out of Regent's Park for testing the UK's first Segway.
Jason Jenkins
2 min read
The Qualcomm logo at its Mobile World Congress booth. Jason Jenkins/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--The second half of this year will see phones in the shops that can work on 4G LTE networks in both Europe and the U.S., according to Roberto Di Pietro, a VP at Qualcomm in Europe.

That has the potential to solve a major problem with today's 4G phones -- although you can normally get a data connection in another country when you travel, it's 3G rather than 4G, as the phones bought in one country usually aren't compatible with the 4G frequencies used in the country you're traveling to.

Speaking to me at Mobile World Congress, Pietro said the solution to this is Qualcomm's new RF360 product, something the chipmaker is hoping to sell to companies that make phones. As part of his pitch around the RF360, Pietro was pushing the message that Qualcomm is the solution to something called LTE fragmentation.

"LTE is the first technology to be capable of being present in all the different regions worldwide," he said. "The issue is that the spectrum is completely different in different regions. Band support is one of the major issues we are working on.

"Currently there are around 40 different frequencies on which LTE is available. Our chipset supports around 40 different bandwidths. It is a step forward for the LTE global roaming scenario where you can roam with a single device in different regions."

If Pietro's prediction comes to pass, you will, in theory, be able to buy a phone in Europe and use it on a 4G network in the U.S., but there is still an obstacle in the way: the phone networks. They still need to work out how roaming agreements are going to work on 4G between countries, so you probably won't be able to use your existing number and contract when travelling abroad if you want 4G. But buying a local 4G SIM would be a possibility.

Pietro also made a couple of other predictions for 4G toward the end of the year: that it would be available on much cheaper models, and that we'll see phones with a theoretical data rate as high as 150Mbps.