LG Electronics has produced its first LTE (Long Term Evolution) modem chip for 4G mobile handsets. Developed at the company’s Mobile Communications Technology Research laboratory in Anyang, South Korea, the device was said to have achieved wireless download speeds of 60 Mbps and upload speeds of 20 Mbps.

The fastest mobile phones currently on the market use HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology and download at a maximum speed of 7.6 Mbps. For the past three years, LG has been pursuing 3GPP LTE standardization, working to develop and test commercially viable LTE technology with approximately 250 R&D staff. The result is a 13 x 13mm modem chip, sized to the next generation of wireless handsets.

Higher download speeds are becoming more and more important as people are increasingly using their mobile phones to watch movies, listen to music and browse the internet. With LTE technology, users can download a 700 Mb movie file in less than one minute at speeds of up to 100Mbps. LTE technology will also allow consumers to simultaneously stream four HD (High Definition) movies without any buffering.

“Now that we have developed and tested the first 4G handset modem, a commercially viable LTE handset is on the horizon,” said Dr Woo Hyun Paik, CTO of LG Electronics. Most of the major mobile operators are pursuing LTE-based 4G technology. As it is based on the existing WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology evolutionary path, 85 percent of WCDMA service-provided carriers will be able to upgrade their networks to LTE with far less cost than building a new network based on different technology.

According to Strategy Analytics, the global LTE handset market will double from 70 million sales units in 2012 to 150 million by 2013. Several mobile phone carriers have built LTE test networks and are currently working on early stage handset with the first LTE handsets likely to reach the market in 2010. Bearing in mind that the initial 3GPP (Release 8) LTE specification was frozen only about three weeks ago and final approval is not expected before March 2009, it will be quite some time before this modem chip becomes a product. The company has not provided any information on process geometry or power consumption.