Nvidia announced plans to acquire baseband processor vendor Icera for $367 million in cash.

With the acquisition, Nvidia aims to strengthen its mobile-device silicon business by integrating Icera's baseband/RF chipsets with its applications processors under a single platform.

Icera has become a key figure in the LTE baseband market, as it is one of the few players with a multimode LTE baseband that is ready to come to market. Today’s LTE devices, such as the Samsung Thunderbolt sold by Verizon Wireless, incorporate two separate basebands — one for LTE and one for CDMA EV-DO.

Icera has said its multimode LTE baseband technology adds no additional cost to silicon, because it delivers the solution via software. Will Strauss, principal analyst and founder of Forward Concepts, said Nvidia’s market presence will give Icera’s baseband technology more traction with top device makers.
Nvidia’s purchase is a continuation of the acquisition trend in the mobile broadband chip market that was kicked off when Intel announced its intention to buy Infineon last summer. Infineon is the baseband supplier to Apple, Nokia, Samsung and LG.

Several former WiMAX chipset providers turned to the LTE market and now offer single-mode LTE chips. But analysts believe those players will be acquisition targets for vendors looking to expand into the LTE devices market. Altair Semiconductors and Sequans are likely the next acquisition targets.

“Cellular baseband technology continues to be a key strategic component for players with long-term ambitions in the smartphone and tablet markets, and Nvidia’s announcement today that it will acquire Icera for $367 just confirms that,” Strategy Analytics analysts Sravan Kundojjala and Christopher Taylor stated in a research note.

Steve Allpress, Icera’s chief technology officer and vice president of modem software, said consolidation likely will continue, because these players have a single mode product, but legacy 2G and 3G technology is still required in the market. As such, each single-mode LTE baseband supplier needs to find partners with legacy technology.

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