Integrating mobile processors with modems is a burgeoning trend, and according to Marvell co-founder, Weili Dai, it’s the future.
“Building a single unified platform to address global needs through the combination of modem and application processor is very important for that ‘always on, always connected’ lifestyle, especially when it comes to tablets,” said Dai.
Marvell just announced its new PXA988 and PXA986 products, chips that include everything but the kitchen sink in terms of connectivity, from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to FM radio, Near Field Communications (NFC) and GPS.
The new chips also manage to bundle up RF transceivers and integrated PMIC for both time division synchronous code division multiple access (TD-SCDMA) and wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) markets. In layman’s terms, that means the phone can run both on Chinese networks as well as elsewhere in the world, being effectively “bilingual” when it comes to wireless languages.
This is quite novel, as previously, phones for the Chinese market tended to stay inside China, with little hope for the same design making its way elsewhere.
Everything else about the chip, including its dual-core, 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, is fairly standard, fitting in with Marvell’s strategy of aiming at the wider mass market, though Dai claims the chip is well equipped to handle advanced multimedia demands like 3D and 1080p video.
The lower price point, Dai said, should also help to empower more consumers to take advantage of more radio functions in their devices, without having to sacrifice performance. The model is scalable too, with the chips suited both to smartphones and larger tablets.
“Integration is the future,” said Dai, “mainly due to their affordability, and the fact that having extra radios on chip doesn’t do any harm. It’s all about cost efficiency.”
“We built this platform on proven technologies and optimized them for better performance,” said Dai, calling the final result the “best of the best” and “very complete product” in terms of a mass market offering.
Dai would not be drawn into announcing any design wins for the new chips, as currently, there are only test samples available, but she was keen to talk about Marvell’s PXA920 processor being picked up by Samsung for three new Galaxy phone models slated for the Chinese market.
“I watch how Samsung drives the market and I’m very proud the firm selected us,” said Dai, adding the new phones also used Marvell’s Avastar wireless chipset with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11n and Marvell’s RF838, a 2G/3G dual-mode TD-SCDMA radio frequency transceiver.
Dai said she had been especially amazed by Samsung’s rapid execution, from deciding on the chipsets to the introduction of the phones, noting, “that was very impressive and of course, I’m quite proud because our technology is phenomenal and Samsung is all about quality and performance. Having a solution that’s able to support Samsung is a great addition to our track record.”
We have been chip integration for the last 50 years so I am not sure what is a new idea or trend here...but integrating RF and digital processor is very tough, perhaps Marvell feels they have a secret sauce in doing it...Kris
Impressive, though I'm not sure there SoC's actually have the RF front-end integrated on the same die.
Would be interesting to know if this is the case or not.
As reference, see the Marvell press release dated June 25 this year concerning the adoption of PXA968 (the predecessor of the now announced PXA988) :
"About Marvell’s PXA968
The Marvell PXA968 multimedia focused platform includes the PXA968 800MHz/1GHz chip set, which supports WCDMA HSPA, GSM/EDGE, high performance applications processing and 720p Encode / Decode of multimedia content. The platform also includes Marvell’s PM8607 integrated audio and power management and Marvell’s RF830 WCDMA RF transceiver. Additionally, it incorporates the Marvell Avastar 88W8787 Wi-Fi system on chip (SoC), an 802.11n-compliant solution with Bluetooth 3.0 and FM combination radio that offers exceptional range through its support of beamforming technology for crystal clear audio quality."
Having integrated the correct functions in an IC package is only 1/3 of what it takes to win the customers. I wouldn't take the statement of Weili Dai too seriously. Either her statement was made to intentionally deceive the audiences or the editor interpreted something out of context. Always, the market needs both combo and non-combo solutions. Timing and cost-effectiveness dictate how much market share can be achieved by the two approach.
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