ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- In a move to raise the bar in chip sets for 2.5G handsets, Agere Systems Inc. today rolled out a new platform series, software, and testing support to reduce the number of electronic components in GSM-based cell phones by nearly 50%, while accelerating product introductions by up to one year.
Moreover, Agere's new SVL12 platform is aimed at enabling Class 12 General Packet RAdio Service (GPRS) handsets and services that are capable of sending and receiving data at up to 50-kilobits per second. The Class 12 uploading capabilities (sending data) are about four times faster than today's Class 8 GPRS services, making Web browsing, e-commerce, video viewing, and game playing more feasible on 2.5G handsets, said Agere (formerly called Lucent Microelectronics).
The SVL12 platform is based on Agere's Sceptre 3 chip set--consisting of a digital baseband IC (integrating the company's 16-bit DSP16000 with an ARM7 TDMI RISC core), mixed-signal device, and power management chip. Agere is including a radio-frequency (RF) chip from partner Hitachi Ltd. in the SVL12 platform.
All together, the four-chip set and SVL12 platform design will enable handset designers to reduce the number of electronic components to about 150--including passive and active devices--compared to approximately 300 in previous-generation systems, according to Yueh-Way Sun, senior marketing manager at Agere's Terminal Division in Allentown. The new 2.5-generation platform has also been designed to enable system developers to group functions in modular blocks around their circuit boards so that handsets and other products can be packed into a wider range of shapes, sizes and applications, he added.
"This modular concept will enable customers to quickly introduce a range of derivative designs by partitioning the layout for different mechanical concepts, such as smart phones, clamshell phones, PDAs, and PCMCIA cards," Sun told SBN.
Agere believes the new SVL12 platform significantly extends its chip-set offering in cell phone markets beyond competitors--including its DSP partner Motorola Inc., which last week introduced its latest 2.5G platform aimed at cutting in half the number of components in GSM-based handset. Motorola's new i.250 four-chip set is based on its own 56600 digital signal processor (DSP) core and other functions as well a complete software offering aimed at speeding handset introductions by customers (see Sept. 17 story).
Neither Motorola nor Agere are now opting to use a jointly-developed DSP architecture--called StarCore--in their new 2.5G chip sets. While the StarCore architecture is considered "overkill" for 2.5G phones, the jointly-developed DSP core could be used in the future, for 3G handset offerings, but Agere is not willing to discuss those plans at this time. Motorola managers said the company will use StarCore in the company's upcoming 3G chip set.
But for not, Agere believes it is well ahead of any other supplier in 2.5G chip sets, especially in platforms aimed at Class 12 GPRS services. Last February, Agere rolled out a Class 8 GPRS chip set for Global System for Mobile (GSM) handsets. The set supports Class 8 with 50-Kbit/sec. downloading capabilities for data and about 9-Kbit/sec. uploading speeds. Agere's Class 12 support quadruples the uploading performance.
In addition, Agere said its new chip set is available now for sample and production quantities are expected to be ready for delivery in the first quarter of 2001.
Agere is providing software, interface support and testing services to accelerate the interoperability and government approval of handsets in various markets worldwide. Agere's protocol stack software comes from its Optimay GmbH subsidiary, which was acquired by the company several years ago to increase its system-level support of mobile phones.
To speed the introduction of Class 12 GPRS systems, Agere said it is offering complete interoperability testing (IOT) for new handset designs with base stations from a range of leading suppliers--including Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, Lucent, Siemens, Alcatel, and Nortel, said Sun. Agere has also developed interoperability testing for base stations in China's cellular phone market--a huge potential for handset suppliers.
"This is one of the major differentiators we're offering in the market," said Sun, referring to the field type testing as well as interoperability support. "For customers choosing the Agere solution, we already provide 75% of the FTA field type approval testing, and customers will not have to repeat those tests," he said.
Agere is not releasing information about pricing on the new SVL12 platform because prices are heavily dependent upon volume and the types of services provided, including testing support. With the full support of Agere, it is possible for a handset supplier to introduce a 2.5G phone in as little as six months, according to Sun.
--J. Robert Lineback