EE Times caught up with Robert Nalesnik, senior director of marketing with Broadcom's Mobile Platforms group, to ask him questions about trends in wireless handsets as part of a series of interviews with wireless chip vendors in advance of Mobile World Congress.
EE Times: What are the new requirementsimposed by handset OEMs and carriers for mobile handset chip vendors?
Nalesnik: Software is clearly becoming a more significant mobile platform component. Open operating systems such as Android are gaining traction, and major handset vendors are adding open interfaces to proprietary handset operating systems to enable downloadable applications as well. OS multimedia infrastructure requires significant upgrading and linkage to optimized hardware accelerators to handle the increased demands of high definition mobile video and graphics. Integration of multiple wireless technologies and radios in space-constrained handsets presents co-existence challenges. Customers expect us to support these advancements and resolve these challenges by providing a level of pre-integration with our chipsets.
Handset security is getting more attention as mobile Internet usage expands. Handset OEMs and carriers are spending a lot more time specifying security requirements and probing hardware and software implementation details. Expectations are that chip vendors must take a holistic approach to security across the design, manufacturing and deployment phases.
EE Times: What are the biggest threats and/or challenges lurking on the horizon for mobile handset chip vendors as a whole?
Nalesnik: Will there be sufficient network bandwidth to support the dramatic increase in mobile data usage? The ability of carriers to expand coverage and capacity with limited spectrum will be challenging in today's business environment. In addition to the on-going evolution of the cellular standards to higher data rates and efficiency, our expectation is that Wi-Fi will play an important role in helping to offload data traffic from overworked cellular networks.
Making the right tradeoffs between handset performance, battery life and cost will be increasingly challenging as silicon processes migrate. While there will be sufficient silicon real estate on which to innovate, no major breakthroughs are foreseen in battery technology. This will force ever increasing features into similar battery footprints as today. Key architectural decisions will depend on where mobile applications processing power is located, the handset or the Internet "cloud"? Will cell phone chip suppliers chase megahertz with ever more powerful (and power hungry) chipsets at the expense of battery life or can we count on sufficient mobile bandwidth to access "cloud computing" for mobile applications heavy lifting? This should be an interesting and on-going debate going forward.