SAN ANTONIO—Freescale Semiconductor Inc. is casting a wide net in its pursuit of sockets in the nascent market for small cell base stations, according to Scott Aylor, general manager of Freescale's wireless access division.
According to Aylor, while some competitors are taking a "rifle approach" to the market for small cell silicon, targeting certain emerging categories of small cell base stations, Freescale is hedging its bets.
"We don't think there is a 'one size fits all' approach," Aylor said. "We think the approach of enabling lots of different form factors is a good one."
Freescale and competitors—including Texas Instruments Inc., LSI Corp. and Caium Networks Inc.—have been rolling out SoCs for small cell base stations, the concepts for which are still evolving. Wireless carriers and private companies are expected to use microcell, picocell and metrocell base stations to augment large base stations—macrocells—to provide greater capacity in dense urban areas and extend coverage in rural areas. This trend began a few years ago with the introduction of femtocells—small residential base stations that extend coverage to individual homes and business located in cellular dead zones.
By 2016, the vast majority of base station deployments are expected to be small cells, which are projected to number more than 55 million that year, according to ABI Research Inc. But experts speaking at the NGM Alliance conference in San Francisco this week stressed that engineers still have significant work ahead to deliver small cell base stations.
Freescale earlier this week introduced an SoC targeted for microcells and metrocells—small cells that enhance coverage in dense urban areas. The 28-nm chip, the QorIP Qonverge B4420, completes Freescale's first-generation QorIQ Qonverge portfolio of base station SoCs, which now includes solutions all types of small cell base stations, as well as macrocells, according to Aylor.
"There are going to be a variety of systems on the market," Aylor said.
Tom Deitrich, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale's networking and multimedia solutions group, said Freescale strongly believes in a platform approach to base station SoCs. "If you don't have all of the pieces, you might end up on the outside looking in, which I firmly believe many of our competitors will be."