AUSTIN, Tex. -- In an effort to redefine its semiconductor business, Motorola Inc. today publicly disclosed details of its first complete solution for 2.5-generation cellular phones, including a highly integrated four-component chip set that reduces electronics parts count in 2.5G handsets from more than 250 devices (passives and active circuits) to as low as 125.
The first details about Motorola's new 2.5G Innovative Convergence (i.250) platform come nine weeks after the company announced it would no longer protect any cellular phone technologies for internal use only in its own handset products. The strategy shift raised eyebrows around the industry because the plan hinges on Motorola's ability to win the confidence of cell-phone competitors, which would become dependent upon the company's technologies if they do indeed embraced the new platforms for 2.5G and next-generation 3G handsets (see July 27 story).
Managers at Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector in Austin repeated a promise to make all new technologies, protocol software, and ICs available to outside chip customers at the same timeframe as they are given to Motorola's cellular phone systems division. At stake, they said, is a $35 billion chip market for wireless systems by 2004, based on a forecast by Dataquest Inc.
The issue of equal treatment between Motorola's own cell-phone division and other handset competitors is a "question that always comes up," acknowledged said Ed Valdez, director of marketing for Motorola's Wireless and Broadband Systems Group in the semiconductor sector. But he said the strategy of equal access to cell phone chips and technologies is also attracting interest around the industry because of Motorola's systems expertise and history in the mobile handset segment.
"The market will be receiving a proven, mature software stack. Customers won't have to worry about qualifying and testing it on their own," he said. The savings in cost of development, testing, and qualification to 2.5G standards will put money back in the pocket of handset suppliers, which can focus more spending on marketing, the channels, and user features, Valdez said.
Motorola is starting out its cell-phone platform campaign with a completely new chip set of four devices:
A dual-core baseband processor, integrating Motorola's 16-bit DSP56600 digital signal processor core and an ARM7 TDMI reduced-instruction set computing core that's fabricated with 0.13-micron copper technology. The 2.5G baseband processor contains enough embedded memory to remove the need for SRAM and external flash in handsets, said product managers.
RF front-end IC, fabricated with a 0.35-micron radio-frequency BiCMOS technology and an extra silicon-germanium:carbon (SiGe:C) step to integrate additional active and passive devices on chip, including copper inductors.
Power management and audio circuit, produced with medium-voltage mixed-signal BiCMOS process that integrates high-performance analog circuitry, intelligent digital control, and power devices.
Power amplifier module, which includes indium-gallium phosphide (InGaP) fabricated heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) technology with two power amplifiers, a single-pole 4-throw (SP4T) antenna switch, harmonic filters, couplers, and power detection circuitry. The module "integrates" these functions in a system-in-package (SiP) approach to significantly reduce discrete parts, said Motorola managers.
"No other semiconductor supplier in the world--that we know of--makes as complete of an embedded solution and also ships phones for a living," Valdez said. "We've taken the best of both worlds chip supplier and cell phone maker and created a highly integrated chip set solution with a total bundled, one-stop shopping value proposition that will enables customers to produce quick turnkey solutions for the marketplace."
As part of that one-stop shop approach, Motorola is rolling out a wide range of engineering services and support, including protocol stacks for 2.5G Global System for Mobile (GSM) and Global Packet Radio Service (GPRS) handsets. Radio test enfironments (RTE) for development and performance optimization as well as manufacturing test environment (MTE) for government type approval and product line testing is also being offered by Motorola.
StarCore set for 3G platform
Reference design platforms for low-end voice-only to high-end "2.75G" handsets with data-centric applications are also being launched. Motorola is also promising potential customers that it will help migrate the 2.5G software and designs to an upcoming 3G platform, which will replace the 56600 DSP core in the baseband platform with the StarCore processor architecture that has been jointly developed with Agere Systems Inc (formerly Lucent Microelectronics) in Atlanta.
The i.250 platform testing and engineering tools are being rolled out first in Hong Kong to help establish the new chip sets and software with Asia's fast-growing original design manufacturers (ODMs), which not only produce handsets on a contract basis, but also develop the products for cell-phone system companies. Motorola is also pursuing large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the cellular phone market."
"Ordinarily this solution would be targeted at 'Tier 2' or 'Tier 3' cellular phone companies, but we're not ruling out thepossibility of securing a 'Tier 1' customer," Valdez told SBN. "Think of any top five or six manufacturers, and you might be surprised that we've had review meetings with some of them concerning this platform."
Motorola's own cellular phone handset division, the Personal Communications Sector, also must be wooed by the Austin-based semiconductor group, according to product managers. "They do have the option to consider competitors such as Texas Instruments, Analog Devices and others in the segment," Valdez noted. "So we treat them just like other customers. Christopher Galvin Motorola's chairman and CEO has said, 'There is no longer any captive market, and they PCS are free to go outside and use products as they chose."
Motorola did not release pricing information on the new i.250 chip set because the platforms are heavily dependent upon volume, options, and other factors. Valdez said he did not believe Motorola would end up selling just two or three of the ICs from the chip set ICs into handset set designs because the high levels of integration make them work better all together.
Motorola officials earlier predicted that the company would announce design wins by the end of this year as proof that the new strategy is working. Handset system products are expected to be introduced by Motorola customers in the second half of 2002.