Mobile

Quantance’s tiny power amplifiers could dramatically improve your smartphone’s 4G data rates

Most people won’t care about Quantance‘s tiny qBoost power amplifiers. But these efficient little chips should capture your attention because they could speed up 4G data rates by 2 to 5 times.

Quantance is handing out samples of its finished third-generation chip, the Q845 ET power supply, it announced today. So far, major smartphone manufacturers in the LTE supply chain are testing the chip, which could wind up in smartphones in consumers’ hands in the first half of next year. Those devices will have faster data rates and better battery lives. And the phones won’t burn hot in your hands.

The new chip is more efficient and smaller than rival power supplies and can deliver power to the rest of a phone in the right amount and do so at a very high speed.

Older power supplies are slow and haven’t kept up with the rapidly evolving smartphone. Some can generate voltage efficiently, while others do it quickly. But Quantance designed its power supplies to deliver power quickly and efficiently at the same time, said Rob Rovetta, vice president of product at San Mateo, Calif.-based Quantance, in an interview with VentureBeat.

“This is giong to be the industry’s fastest-performing chip,” Rovetta said.

Most power supply companies simply ratchet up the power that they deliver to a smartphone application. That’s because the app will crash if it gets too little power. Designers have to design for overkill on power or risk having constant failures. The consequence is that the device, such as my own Verizon 4G LTE MyFi hot spot (which provides internet data connectivity anywhere it can get a cellular signal), will run out of power far too quickly.

The Q845 supports ET operation up to 20 megahertz LTE, providing the response time equivalent of a 400 megahertz switcher for ET systems. As a result, the Q845 is more than 100 times faster than any other mobile ET power supply solution available today.

Some 4G LTE companies evaluating the chip hope to get a finished product with it out this year. But Rovetta said most will likely take more time preparing brand new products around the technology. It could be used in 4G LTE smartphones, tablets, or MyFi devices.

These devices are currently frustratingly slow because the power-related constraints are stopping them from transferring data at the maximum theoretical rates. Device makers actually have to throttle their designs because of the power limits, Rovetta said.

“We are thrilled to be sampling our chip and are already deep in the process of integrating our qBoost-enabled products into baseband chipset platforms and high-speed mobile data devices,” said Vikas Vinayak, Quantance’s CEO and co-founder. “The industry-wide interest in our chip is a strong indicator that the 4G/LTE market will depend heavily on ET to achieve maximum speed, coverage, and battery life. And with our unique qBoost approach, we feel Quantance is well positioned to lead the ET market race.”

The Q845 uses a patented combination of switching and linear power supplies inside a single chip to efficiently deliver power. The design is so radically different that the company has had to work on the technology for six years. Its third version of the chip is the one that will likely be commercially successful, Rovetta said.

Quantance has 25 employees and has raised $30 million from investors, including TD Fund, Granite Ventures, InterWest Partners, and DoCoMo Capital. Rivals include Texas Instruments, Fairchild, and Maxim. Smaller rivals include R2 and Nujira. Quantance founders include Vanayak and Serge Drogi, chief technology officer.

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