The promise of a market for four to eight small cells for every macro base station has chip and system vendors scrambling for position. Freescale and Texas Instruments rolled new SoC architectures for small cells last year, and LSI announced its own recently, following an industry trend of shifting to ARM cores.
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TI announced at MWC physical-layer software
for small cells running on its SoCs.
In the competition for customers, LSI claims Nokia Siemens Networks will use its new Axxia chips. TI said China's ZTE has adopted its Keystone SoCs for 3G/4G small cells. Freescale is working with The Technology Partnership, which is building small cells using TV white-space spectrum.
There's also a scramble to create small-cell ecosystems. Broadcom partnered with Radisys, which is contributing its LTE software to Broadcom's reference designs. The chip maker also rolled out its own integrated development platform.
For its part, TI announced a software package handling all physical-layer software for 3G/4G small cells on its chips. It announced a separate package for transport functions for base stations and edge networks.
Meanwhile a handful of top OEMs are duking it out for a slice of the basestation market. Ericsson and Huawei each claim about 24 percent of the radio access segment, followed by Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, ZTE, Samsung and NEC, according to market-watcher ABI Research. The sector grew 17.4 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2012 to reach almost $8.5 billion last year, ABI estimated.