According to a report published recently by the IHS iSuppli Teardown Analysis Service, it costs nearly $40 to add LTE wireless capability to a mobile phone handset. That’s the conclusion of a teardown report on the HTC Thunderbolt mobile phone, which had “the highest BOM cost of any smartphone IHS has ever torn down, rivaling the expense of media tablets.” Another interesting observation from the teardown is that there’s not sufficient room on the iPhone 4’s “miniscule” circuit board to fit the LTE components used in the HTC Thunderbolt, which doesn’t bode well for a 4G iPhone.
Both of these observations strongly suggest that there will be a scramble to further integrate LTE functions in existing cellular chips both to bring down the cost and to reduce the pc board footprint. These findings also strongly suggest that makers of cellphone chips continue to be strongly incented to keep pace with the latest IC process lithographies to keep pace with LTE standards and to be able to offer new features with each new phone generation.
In fact, the IHS report contains the following quote from Apple:
“’The first generation of LTE chipsets forced a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make,’ said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple chief operating officer, speaking at the company’s April 2011 earnings call.”