Broadcom is a late comer to integrated basestation chips, but it has significant strengths including battle-hardened 3G as well as Wi-Fi silicon that it can integrate when the time is right. The company also has been a player in chips for residential femtocells, a related and still-growing market.
Ultimately small cells on carrier networks may rise to volumes as great as femtos, but there's likely more margin and revenue in small cells, said Greg Fischer, general manager of Broadcom's broadband group that deals with everything from femtos to fibre optics.
The new BCM 617xx SoCs support LTE at a low cost and with less silicon area than competitors, Fischer claims. The SoC also includes an undisclosed set of MIPS processors at a time when some OEMs are converging on the x86 and ARM.
"Some OEMs prefer [ARM], but others don't care or are agnostic because we bring a solid underpinning of the software they need," he said.
The chips also pack multiple Gbit Ethernet ports, Broadcom's Firepath DSP and PCI Express interfaces to external Wi-Fi chips. They support 40-MHz LTE bands and both FDD and TDD flavors of LTE.
The SoCs support both the physical and transport layer needs for small cells for up to 256 users. Larger macro cells typically separate the two functions, often using OEM modem ASICs, FPGAs or third party DSPs, he noted.
The chips come in three versions for different sizes of small cells and are sampling now. Broadcom also updated its femto cell offering with the BCM61630, now supporting HSPA rates up to 21.6 Mbits/s and in volume production by June.
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