Enabling RDA to add a series of baseband products alongside its RF and
mixed-signal offerings for handsets is Coolsand Holding Co. (a privately
held baseband company with business operations in China). RDA last year
acquired intellectual property from Coolsand.
From Tai’s point of view, RDA already
checked off WiFi and Bluetooth. RDA has already put in place its
baseband strategy. So why would RDA need to sell itself to any one? “Of
course, never say never. At a fair price, we may consider it,” said Tai.
“But I’m greedy," he quickly added.
Why go after the trailing edge market?
for GSM, EDGE and WCDMA at this stage of the global cellular market
development appears counter-intuitive. Demand for such cellular
basebands for handsets are in decline, not on the rise.
zooming in on what may soon become an underserved market with a very
low-cost solution that nobody else can match is a strategy that has
fueled RDA’s success so far. Tai said, “There is a large demand for
first-time handset buyers in rural India and Africa, looking for very
low-end voice-centric phones.” Noting that RDA’s gross margin for its
GSM baseband (RDA8851) is more than 35 percent, Tai described it as a
very profitable GSM solution.
RDA’s CEO isn’t thinking about its
GSM chip just for cell phones, though. At its low data-rate for
communication and very low cost, “I’m thinking about going after the
Internet of Things (IoT) market with GSM.” While Tai doesn’t believe the
IoT market is here yet, he made it clear, “We want to be prepared for
CMOS power amplifiers
Qualcomm isn’t the only
company pitting CMOS against GaAs for cellphone front ends. (Qualcomm
has recently introduced a CMOS radio frequency IC family, for use in the
mobile phones that is expected to validate and stimulate the use of
CMOS for multi-band power amplifiers.)
RDA is currently working
on the integration of PA into the company’s single-die CMOS GSA
baseband/transceiver chip. He added, “If we can get that done, it can
definitely solve the high cost issues of IoT.”
RDA’s CMOS PA
project, however, is still under development. “But we are making a
serious attempt. If I didn’t think we had a chance, I wouldn’t be
talking about it now,” Tai said. RDA has a solid R&D team working on
the project under CTO Shuran Wei, who has two decades of experience in
CMOS RF integrated circuit design. Before co-founding RDA with Tai and
Pincus, Wei worked at Analogix, Marvell and LSI.