ST-Ericsson, Renesas Mobile, NVidia, Marvell and others have been developing LTE baseband chips for more than a year with little to show for. What's the hold up?
It’s a long, arduous process destined to tie up a lot of resources at any company.
In talking with other industry insiders in Las Vegas last week, some speculated that ST-Ericsson or Renesas Mobile may have little choice
but to be acquired by someone like Samsung Their time
and resources are limited, thus making it
tough for these companies to weather the never-ending process before they see
production of handsets containing their chip design.
I should probably curb my pessimism. Will Strauss, president of Forward
Concepts, believes that a bunch of LTE modem design wins might be
announced next month during the Mobile World Congress.
In fact, there was no shortage of new LTE chip news during CES. Qualcomm
announced its Snapdragon 8000, featuring quad-core Krait 400 CPU (which
speeds up to 2.3 GHz per core), Adreno 330 GPU and 4G LTE Cat 4 and
802.11ac that offers connectivity with cellular modem boasting data
rates up to 150 Mbps and 802.11ac at speeds up to 1 Gbps.
unveiled at CES its NovaThor L8580 modem/apps processor based on a 28-nm
FD-SOI process. The company said the multimode Cat 4 LTE chip supports
up to ten LTE/HSPA/TD-SCDMA/GSM bands.
announced its new apps processor, the Tegra 4 SoC, and a separate Icera i500
modem chip that connects to Tegra 4. Icera i500, slated for roll out in
the second half of this year, is a software-based modem that is “highly
adaptive,” Nvidia’s senior vice president, Phillip Carmack, told EE
Times. Its algorithms, for example, are flexible, adapting to very
different types of networks, ranging from the Great Plains -- where the
nearest cellular tower is miles away -- to a very congested network like
CES, he explained. “The soft modem optimizes itself and seeks the best
When Nvidia acquired it, Icera entered
the modem market late compared to competitors, Carmack said. “We’re
lucky that we didn’t have to deal with legacy modems.” Every time a new
modem standard emerges, most of Nvidia’s competitors kept bolting them
on top of existing modems, since “nobody wants to mess with the modems
that already work.”
Strauss reported that Renesas Mobile is
rolling out MP6530 multimode FDD/TDD Class 4 LTE/DC-HSPA+/EDGE/GPRS/GSM
modem with a quad-core apps processor employing ARM's dual
Cortex-A15 and dual Cortex-A7 MPCores. Renesas Mobile’s new chip set is
“said to have ultra-low power consumption, and is fully certified, but
customer announcements will probably not be made before [Mobile World Congress] next month,”
according to Strauss.
Meanwhile, Marvell's PXA1801 2-chip Cat4
multimode LTE modem/App Processor that features its own RF and PMIC is
sampling and in certification, according to Strauss. “It will be in new
RIM Smartphones,” he predicted.
CES slideshow: Next big (or little) things
CES slideshow: Gadgets galore at opener
Renesas big-little LTE processor wins praise