Renesas Mobile Corp. has been keeping a low profile for months, fueling concerns about the future of its mobile chip products. Those concerns have been heightened by the financial turmoil at its parent company, Renesas Electronics.
For now, Renesas Mobile is still standing.
The mobile vendor is still armed with its home-grown LTE modem chip, fully certified by AT&T and NTT Docomo.
Describing it as “the best quality multistandard LTE modem that exists in the market -- after Qualcomm,” Manfred Schlett (left), Renesas Mobile’s vice president of sales and marketing, stressed that the company is focused on “the global LTE chip market.” Renesas has the LTE products with “maturity and cost structure ready for in intense competition,” Schlett insisted during an exclusive interview with EE Times here this week.
There is still one catch: Its customers have yet to roll out their new smartphones based on the Renesas LTE modem. As long as these products are not on the market, “we have little to talk about,” Schlett acknowledged, adding "LTE [design-in] opportunities are still quite limited."
It's been a tough year for Renesas Mobile and other mobile chip vendors. Unless their chips are designed into either Samsung’s Galaxy S3 or Apple’s iPhones, they have no other volume sockets to pursue.
Despite a booming smartphone market, the industry has fewer mobile-handset OEMs. Domination by Apple and Samsung at the expense of Nokia and Research in Motion has dramatically narrowed the field for chip vendors looking for design-in opportunities -- with the exception of Samsung and Qualcomm.
Renesas Mobile's chips, capable of Category 4 LTE modem with 150 Mbps of throughput, will be ready for volume LTE smartphones in 2014. While there have been many claims about emerging LTE chip solutions, those with LTE modem chips already certified by leading carriers remain limited. Samsung may be cornering the Korean LTE market, but “we have yet to see their LTE solutions in the market beyond Korea,” observed Schlett.
Following a single-chip, dual-core, ARM A9-based apps processor combined with its LTE-3G modem, Renesas Mobile is preparing to announce by the end of the year a quad-core, single-chip multi-standard LTE modem/apps processor based on dual ARM A15 and dual A7 cores.
Here's more from our interview with Renesas Mobile's Manfred Schlett:
EE Times: What products does Renesas Mobile have for the mobile market?
Schlett: We have both a modem-only product and a single-chip apps processor/LTE-3G modem. Our LTE modem chip has been already certified by AT&T and NTT Docomo.
EE Times: How long does the certification usually take?
Schlett: Usually it takes about six to nine months for every carrier to do a general certification on modem chips. Once your modem chip is designed into a handset, that handset, then, needs to go through another six- to nine-month certification process… Some carriers like T-Mobile/Deutsche Telecom initiate the certification process only after a modem chip is already designed into a handset.
@ DINapp. I believe that the whole Renesas Mobile operation turns out to be a losing proposition, though the original intention was to make it successful. It is headquartered in Japan, managed by a bunch of losers who, over the year, fail to demonstrate persistent success on mobile communication. The cost structure of Renesas Mobile is fundamentally flawed to begin with and no drastic action has ever been taken to right the wrong. Given the world is not stagnant, it would be a pipe-dream for Renesas Mobile to survive.
Unfortunately, I didn't keep the announcement made by ST-E/Nokia at the time. In the last 6 months, I noticed that ST-E managed to design in several smartphones from Samsung, Nokia, and those in China. As such, ST-E is definitely more successful than Renesas Mobile who has been blowing vapourware consistently since day one.
This interesting, do you happen to have more details on this?
Anyhow, do you still agree with your own criticism on the stability in the sense that this is something Renesas (including via STE U8500) does not have but STE does?
Narrowing it down to LTE, where are STE LTE chipsets (slim modem or CP i.e. APE+modem) ?
According to this article, Renesas has certification (for LTE/HSPA/EDGE I presume) from both AT&T and Docomo, how about STE - (who is mainly promoting its U8500 EDGE/HSPA platform based on ex-Nokia, nowadays Renesas modem technology) ?
Please be aware that ST-E also acquired stuff from Nokia when it off-loaded the modem team. The announcement from Nokia was vague at the time. My assumption is that Renesas Mobile and ST-E divided up the previously Nokia's modem technologies.
Renesas bought Nokia's modem team and yes, Renesas Mobile already has a sizeable presence in the modem/apps processor market. This particular article is focused on LTE ... as that's most likely to be the focus of the next mobiel chip battleground.
Interesting comment, considering, at least according to Renesas Mobile webpages, the technology of Renesas Mobile has been deployed in over 2 billion mobile devices.
It is even more interesting that the STE U8500 chipset used e.g. in Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini, the modem (according to this: http://www.linleygroup.com/newsletters/newsletter_detail.php?num=688&year=2010&t
ag=2) seems to be the ex-Nokia one - that I presume is the same one now owned by Renesas Mobile.
Anyhow, it'd be very interesting to learn more about the design wins and the progress of
the operator certifications of the chipset vendors here in eetimes.
Your comment is interesting. Forgive me for being skeptical, how can you tell that the guy was not hyping, or in a reality-distortion field of his own?
Customers want a solution at a specific time frame. Quite often, the solution does not need to be the best or all encompassing. It is because the solution must be stable. As such, a solution which has gone through field tests and through significant volume shipment is the one which every OEM/ODM love. Given the minute market share or actual shipment of the Renesas solution, a device product manager really has to make a sizable gamble to take on the Renesas Mobile solution. On top, has Renesas Mobile ever showed the world a trustworthy and consistent roadmap since it was created in year 2010? On top, the major stake-holder in the world of mobile cellular market like Qualcomm, MediaTek, ST-E, Broadcom, Marvell, they have consistently released both discrete APs / Modem and integrated AP+Modem in the past. Plus these all have extremely strong WLAN and Bluetooth solutions. In contrast, Renesas Mobile consistently offered "pieces" here and there. Don't be fooled by the bits and pieces. Whoever don't have a complete solution is simply wasting money and time of their investors and their own dear employees!
I think what often gets lost in our coverage is this. We write about companies' new products or roadmaps all the time. Then we write about design wins. We rarely report where chips are at any given time in times of a verification process -- done by operators... The interview with Renesas Mobile executives was informative and educational for me.
"Describing it as “the best quality multistandard LTE modem that exists in the market -- after Qualcomm,”"
That's quite some honesty. Otherwise companies usually try to hype their product as the be all and end all of components around. Likewise when he says that they will be one year ahead of most of the competition and not all the competition.
I like honesty and hope that the japanese semi-industry get their act together.