NEW YORK – While cellular operators conducting a series of 4G trials in the United States and elsewhere in the world, Freescale has begun sampling new wireless basestation SoCs designed for picocells and femto cells.
By using the company’s QorIQ Qonverge family of processors, Freescale developed the new SoCs – dubbed as QorIQ Qonverge PSC9130/31 and PSC9132 – to be used for high-bandwidth and low-power baseband applications in LTE (FDD/TDD), WCDMA (HSPA+) and WiMAX basestations.
Freescale’s new SoCs, which share a common architecture with those used in metro and macro basestations, are based on Freescale’s proven multi-core communication processor, multi-core DSPs and baseband accelerators. The QorIQ Qonverge PSC9130/31 SoCs are for femto cells, supporting performance and cost requirements for 8 – 16 simultaneous users. Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge PSC9132, meanwhile, is designed for multi-mode picocell basestations, supporting up to 64 simultaneous users.
Cellular operators today, in the current 3G network infrastructure, are using small-cell basestations sparingly, “mainly to improve Quality of Service,” said Scott Aylor, director and general manager of Freescale’s wireless access division. But once operators upgrade their network to LTE, “small-cell basestations won’t be an afterthought,” he added. “In 4G networks, small cells will become a key part of their network architecture design.”
What operators expect in small cell basestations
However, Joseph Byrne, a senior analyst at The Linley Group, remained cautious. “I know the operators are looking at small basestations for LTE, but it is unclear how committed they are, and whether deployments would extend to residential femto cells.”
As they build their own LTE network infrastructure, wireless operators are grappling with the right mix of small cells, their features, throughput and the number of users each small cell basestation SoC should support.
If there is one thing SoC vendors could do to cope with this array of variables, it would be keeping their products flexible and scalable.
The Linley Group’s Bryne stressed: “A key requirement for the basestations is cost, which directly impacts the chip suppliers. The ones that can reduce system cost (e.g., through integration) will be in a better position.”
Meanwhile, Abhi Dugar, research manager at IDC, noted, “Operators will be stuck with supporting multi-mode networks for a while so small basestations will be part of their network architecture for LTE and 3G networks.” Asked about key requirements operators are imposing upon small cells, he explained, “They are around multi-mode support, more integration to reduce BoM cost, lower power consumption, ability to source from multiple ODMs/OEMs, ease of installation/use at customer premise, minimal field support.”
When asked to compare small-cell basestation SoCs from TI and Freescale, the Linley Group’s Byrne noted, “TI is targeting small-cell stations for the enterprise and larger.” Meanwhile, “Freescale targets these with the PSC9132 but also targets residential femto with the PSC9130 and PSC9131.”
In Byrne’s opinion, “The closest comparison is between Freescale’s PSC9132 and the TI’s TCI6612. An important difference is that the Freescale part requires 40% less power. Freescale’s chip (PSC9132), however, supports only LTE Category 4 (150Mbps/75Mbps), compared with LTE Category 5 (300Mbps/150Mbps) supported by the TI chip.”
Many variables make the network architecture debate more complex. One of the issues is how to strike a balance between a throughput and a number of users supported by a small-cell basestation. “It’s because it all depends on the use case scenarios,” said Scott Aylor, director and general manager of Freescale’s wireless access division.
Femtocells are urgently needed in many residential areas where people have unreliable service in different parts of their house. The crucial thing is to develop a good business model and affordable technology. The technology would be widely adopted if Femtocells were free to homeowner who made them freely accessible to the neighborhood. Telecommunications companies would benefit from dramatic improvements in customer satisfaction.
Also keep in mind that the cable companies are starting to consider data limits. These devices only make sense if they don't add cost to the network upon which they are riding. If Comcast or TW make that switch the market could go very cold very fast.
Hi, Larry M. I think that was definitely the case for the 3G network.
Femtocells and Picocells have been added more on an ad hoc basis, I gather.
But if operators do start integrating small cell base stations as one of the key ingredients of their LTE network architecture (from the groud up), things would be different, in my opinion.
I got one of the 3G femtocell boxes, but it was only useful until the carrier built out in my area. I see the 4G versions as the same kind of time-limited market - hot for a while, then not so much.
Seems to be a strong competition between TI and Free scale. But the user scenarios should be clearly understood to make the right integrated chip to drive the cost reduction of end product. SO is there any companies already making the femtocell Base stations other than the regular companies like NSN, Ericsson.
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