Posts Tagged ‘ Freescale ’

Freescale vs. TI: Base station SoC battle

Freescale vs. TI: Base station SoC battle.

EW YORK – In response to various network operators’ diverging demands for small to large cells, Freescale Semiconductor and Texas Instruments are unveiling this week at the Mobile World Congress their respective visions for a “base station on a chip.” Freescale is rolling out a scalable, multimode wireless base station processor family, dubbed QorIQ Qonverge. The new family of products, designed to scale from small cells (Femto and Pico) to large cells (Metro and Macro), share a common architecture consisting of Freescale’s proven multi-core communication processor, multi-core DSPs and baseband accelerators. Freescale’s new baseband SoC is also playing a critical role in lightRadio technology, recently announced by Alcatel-Lucent. LightRadio technology, which Alcatel-Lucent is working on with Hewlett Packard and Freescale, is designed to help create mobile phone wireless base stations for carriers that are said to be “barely bigger than a golf ball.” Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of at Freescale’s networking and multimedia group, said, “Our new baseband SoC is in it.” Texas Instruments, on the other hand, has developed a new multimode wireless base station chip, called TMS320TCI668, delivering “double the LTE performance of any existing 40nm SoC,” according to the company. TI has added hardware accelerators to the company’s recently announced base station SoC, called TCI6616. Both TCI6618 and TCI6616 use TSM320C66x – TI’s new DSP featuring floating point and fixed point math in every core. Facing exponentially increasing data traffic, network operators have been scrambling to find new solutions to their networks. Freescale’s Su bluntly put: “Most operators can’t keep up with data traffic today.” Operators want network solutions that are “multi-mode” and “future proof,” she explained. While the transition to LTE could help, LTEs are still in early stage, said Su, despite a number of trials. If operators are still building out a 3G network, they want that equipment “to be 4G capable,” she said. In explaining the wireless network architecture’s current state of flux, she added: “Femto cells, deemed an ‘interesting solution’ six months ago, are now a part of the solution many operators are looking at.” Network operators want network architecture “optimized for cost, performance and capacity,” she added. Many in the industry agree that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the wireless network architecture of tomorrow. “Everyone is designing their own vision of network architecture right now,” observed Brian Glinsman, general manager of TI’s communications infrastructure business. “Solutions proposed by equipment vendors are colored by their top five customers,” he added. This trend, in turn, influences semiconductor suppliers’ base station SoCs. “Any operator who says they know what client devices will demand in flavors of 802.11, WiMax, LTE, various flavors of 4G…is lying, overly optimistic, or both!” noted Rick Doherty, co-founder and director, at The Envisioneering Group. “So the only sane survival method is build cell systems with agile software radio support until 4G ‘stratifies’ into clear winners… again, driven by the consumer, business and institutional device mix and demand.” TI’s strategy is squarely focused on “spectral efficiency.” The new hardware acceleration integrated in the TCI6618 is responsible for handling the high numbers of bits flowing through base stations, while freeing the programmable DSP cores’ processing power to execute customer differentiation chores like scheduling and multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) antenna processing. TI claims the new TCI6618 enables gains “up to 40 percent spectral efficiency.” By making TCI6618 pin and software compatible with TCI6616, TI offers customers flexibility in designing multimode base stations supporting all 2G, 3G and 4G standards, according to the company. TI’s TCI6618 base-station SoC does not come with a RISC processor — necessary for network processing. The company won’t be detailing such a base station SoC complete with a cluster of ARM cores until mid-2011. As an interim step, in collaboration with Axcom Technology, TI is offering a new 3G/4G small cell base station platform in the second quarter of 2011. The platform consists of TCI6616 SoC for PHY and Layer 2 processing; C6A8167 Integra DSP+ARM processor for Layer 3 processing; GC5330 transmit/receive processor for digital radio front-end processing; and NaviLink 6.0 solution GPS for clock synchronization. “We are offering such a platform now so that developers can start writing code,” explained Glinsman. In contrast, Freescale’s plan is to start offering a family of base station processors integrated with their proven network processor. Well-established CPU and DSP technology Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge processors combine on a single chip: multiple Power Architecture cores; StarCore DSPs with MAPLE packet processing acceleration engines; and interconnect fabric. Noting that there will always be waste in a system using discrete components, Su pointed out the efficiency of the QorIQ Qonverge processor, in particular, comes from its multi-core fabric. “We spent a lot of time developing it.” “The key strength of Freescale is that it has both well-established CPU and DSP technology,” noted Joseph Byrne is a senior analyst at The Linley Group. “Nobody else is in the same position.” According to Byrne, “Freescale’s embedded-processor business has been stronger than its DSP business, which creates a particularly good opportunity for the company.” He explained, “Freescale is well-placed to lure OEMs that had been using TI DSPs with Freescale embedded processors, eliminating TI from these designs.” TI, of course, will try to do the reverse but [the company] is not a well-established supplier of embedded processors, he added. Freescale’s Picocells/Enterprise-Femtocells base station SoC In all fairness, the timing for the availability of complete base station SoCs – both from Freescale and TI — may not differ much in the end. Both are aiming at the second half of 2011. But analysts believe Freescale may have an edge. “We think Freescale’s exisitng and new customers will get to the market faster because Freescale offers more tools and endorsed, trusted third party solutions (like performance monitoring) than TI,” said Doherty. “Time to market, flexibility to change designs as market demands (more so on enterprise cell than femto cell) is criucial.” Freescale is seeing fundamental changes in base station design and deployment. Freescale’s Su described the expected proliferation of tiny base stations enabled by Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio technology as akin to cloud-computing. “Instead of racks of servers, we now see a network of desktop connected to cloud,” she said. Similarly, by combining Alcatel-Lucent’s antenna and RF communications with Freescale’s digital baseband unit, “you will soon see a network of small base stations that are the size of a Rubik’s cube,” enabling networks. The Linley Group’s Byrne agreed. “The big-picture is that mobile broadband requires a dense network of base stations, but carrier’s capital expenditure is limited. Thus, some kind of solution that provides density economically is required.” He said that lightRadio looks like the kind of architecture that can do the trick.


Intel Vulnerable as Consumers Shift to Phones to Browse the Web – BusinessWeek

Intel Vulnerable as Consumers Shift to Phones to Browse the Web – BusinessWeek.

By Ian King

Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) — Intel Corp.’s position as the gateway to the Internet will come under attack in 2010 as more consumers start going online via phones, tablets, e-readers and scaled- down laptops.

Qualcomm Inc., Marvell Technology Group Ltd. and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. are among the chipmakers demonstrating new kinds of Internet devices at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Their goal: persuade consumers to ditch their Intel-powered personal computers as the primary way of going online.

“The next billion users that are going to connect to the Web aren’t going to be connected by the PC,” said Henri Richard, head of sales at Austin, Texas-based Freescale. “It’s going to be a multitude of devices.”

Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, makes more than 80 percent of PC processors — the brains of computers. It aims to use its Atom product, which runs small laptops known as netbooks, to break into chips for wireless devices, a market IDC estimates will increase 14 percent to more than $46 billion in 2010. Its rivals are heading in the other direction: using phone chips to woo users of PCs and consumer electronics.

While the PC will remain the main way for people to go online, portable devices are chipping away at that dominance — with mobile phones leading the charge. Qualcomm, Freescale, Marvell and Texas Instruments Inc. are using chip technology developed by ARM Holdings Plc.

Reaching a Billion

By 2013, the number of phones regularly being used to access the Web will exceed 1 billion for the first time, a fivefold increase from 2006, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. Over the same time period, the number of Internet-connected PCs will rise to 1.6 billion from 754 million, according to IDC.

“The push right now is to connect everyone and everything, and that’s why we’re seeing a plethora of devices,” said Jim McGregor, an analyst at Scottsdale, Arizona-based research firm In-Stat. “In terms of sheer numbers and usability, you can’t compete with a handheld. Everything migrates to a mobile.”

The Consumer Electronics Show will reveal which phone-chip makers have made progress persuading computer and consumer- electronics companies to use their components. Qualcomm, the world’s largest maker of phone chips, will show off a so-called smartbook made by Lenovo Group Ltd., China’s biggest computer maker.

That device will run on San Diego-based Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip. Freescale will demonstrate similar small laptops based on its products, and Marvell will introduce products based on a new range of faster processors.

Apple Tablet?

Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, also is planning to unveil a tablet computer this month, a person familiar with the matter said this week. Yesterday, Google Inc. introduced a touch-screen phone called the Nexus One.

It makes more sense to use smartphone technology to build tablets, e-readers and handheld computers, rather than relying on PC chips, said Sehat Sutardja, chief executive officer of Santa Clara, California-based Marvell. Smartphones offer the right mix of processing speed, low power consumption and touch screens, making them easy to convert into Internet devices, he said.

“A touch-screen smartphone is actually a small tablet PC,” said Sutardja, whose company supplies the main chip for Research In Motion Ltd.’s Blackberry. “The time for tablet devices is now.”

Armada Chips

In October, Marvell released a new line of chips called Armada. Those products can run fast enough to bring PC-level computing to e-readers and tablets, Sutardja said. Internet devices have previously failed to catch on with consumers because the chips that ran them were either too slow to make them useful or drew too much power, draining batteries, he said.

At CES, Intel CEO Paul Otellini plans to demonstrate mobile devices based on its chips.

“We remain committed to delivering the benefits of Intel architecture to handhelds and consumer electronics and believe that these devices will continue to become smarter with PC-like performance, computer and Internet capabilities,” said Claudine Mangano, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara-based company. “This is Intel’s strength.”

Intel lost 1 cent to $20.87 yesterday in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares added 39 percent in 2009. Qualcomm gained $1.13 to $48.07, and Marvell rose 40 cents to $21.43.

Intel’s challenge in pushing into phones and mobile devices is creating less power-hungry chips with similar performance. The company’s rivals on the phone side are trying to gauge how quickly that will happen. Intel chips will continue to draw three to four times as much power as Marvell’s products, Sutardja said. ARM, though, doesn’t expect phone chips to have an edge for long.

‘Smart Company’

“Intel’s a smart company and in the next couple of years they’ll have the same type of power and performance,” said Bob Morris, director of mobile computing for Cambridge, England- based ARM.

In the meantime, ARM chipmakers can gain an edge with electronics companies by selling chips that are cheaper than Intel’s, he said. They also can use Google’s free Android software, which works with ARM designs.

Electronic-book readers, fueled by the success of Inc.’s Kindle and Sony Corp. devices, are opening up another market for chips. For the first time, CES will have an area devoted to e-readers on the show floor.

That market will double next year to about 11 million units and then double again by 2013, according to Vinita Jakhanwal, an analyst at El Segundo, California-based ISuppli Corp.

As readers become more popular, they could become more general-purpose Internet devices, Freescale’s Richard said. His company makes the processors that power both the Kindle and Sony products, which account for about 75 percent of market sales.

For now, the black-and-white screens of e-readers may make them unfit for broader applications, said ISuppli’s Jakhanwal. Until color displays are introduced, consumers won’t accept e- readers as Web browsers, she said.