TI rolls out SoCs for small cell base stations
6/20/2011 8:01 AM EDT
The network issues operators care about are many, but when it comes to metro, pico and enterprise small cell base stations, the number boils down to a handful.
According to Stéphane Téral, principal analyst at Infonetics Research, there are three key issues operators are battling with. First, indoor coverage in large buildings, second, coverage of a large venue such as a convention center or a stadium during a major event gathering thousands of people – many trying to send SMS’s at the same time, and third, outdoor coverage in hotspot and dense areas such as Central London, Hong Kong Central, Singapore, Manhattan, etc., where smartphone usage is high, creating network congestion, Téral explained.
For each of these key issues, network operators are using a variety of cells and their base stations. Such definitions tend to get blurry. “Enterprise/femto” networks, for example, largely address the indoor coverage on an office floor by installing a WiFi box in a ceiling, explained TI’s Glinsman. Meanwhile, “pico” is often used for building coverage for hotels and a large campus. “Metro,” on the other hand, is for “spot coverage” in outdoors, for example, in one block in New York City. “This is where the interference management is the hardest,” said Glinsman. In Metro cells, base stations are attached to a lamp post or a building, and once the signal goes beyond spot coverage, it is handed off to “macro” cells.
As there exist many different network architectures (and separate devices for each), customers face more choices. The key to TI’s SoCs for small cells is that “software is totally portable,” said Glinsman. “Customers can move software back and forth.” The SoCs’ pin-compatibility also allows customers to “put more horse power when needed,” he added.
Competitive landscape on small cells
Infonetics’ Téral sees “Freescale, Picochip and TI as the most visible” in the market place, as they are “involved with major Radio Access Network (RAN) vendors in miniaturizing Base Transceiver Station (BTS).” BTS is the networking component of a mobile communications system from which all signals are sent and received.
However, generally speaking on the LTE small cell/femtocell front, he added, “you have Altera, Picochip, DesignArt, Freescale, Mindspeed, Qualcomm, Texas Instrument, and Xilinx.”
What separates TI’s SoCs from others, though, is the scalability, noted Téral. “That’s one major difference.” TI’s SoC offerings can “scale from enterprise femto all the way up to macro,” noted. “Another one is the number of users supported by the SoC.”