NEW YORK — Broadcom is sampling an updated line of its chips for the emerging market of small-cell basestations. By targeting residential and enterprise systems, Broadcom hopes its BCM617XX 3G and 4G LTE chips can compete with chip vendors more established in teleco macro cells.
The new SoCs deliver data rates up to 300 Mbit/s, support LTE carrier aggregation, and have a digital RF front end. They pack a dual core, quad-threaded Broadcom Zephyr processor that can autonomously configure WiFi, provision the cell, and listen to traffic to mitigate interference.
Broadcom designed BCM617XX for use indoors, given a significant outdoor presence from competitors such as Texas Instruments and Freescale. Outdoor cells “tend to be slaves to the macro cell in terms of software, timing, feature support, and therefore architecture of products,” says Greg Fischer, general manager of Broadcom's Broadband Carrier Access group. By contrast, small or femto cells have the advantage of being more self-contained in processing and protocols.
“All vendors target small cells, but TI and Freescale also offer and have greater presence in macro cells. Because of software compatibility across basestations of different sizes, TI and Freescale have an advantage over Broadcom,” Linley Group analyst Jag Bolaria told EE Times. “Broadcom, however, can boast a more complete product line and greater breadth of complementary products such as WiFi, DSL, PON, Ethernet -- the latter are particularly important in residential and small offices.”
Targeting the China market, Broadcom included the China ZUC security algorithm/cypher in its chips. It also supports the China-led TD-SCDMA and TDD-LTE standards. “We’re evolving a very nice platform for the emerging opportunities in China,” Fischer says.
The chips will ship in the fourth quarter of this year and Broadcom will continue to invest heavily in small cell development. Future use of the unlicensed spectrum in small and macro cells will be a particularly interesting area to watch, Fischer feels.
“Small cells have been slow to take off. Operators have looked to provide LTE coverage first though macro cells. With coverage in place, small cells help to increase density,” Bolaria wrote in an email exchange. “Now that more LTE coverage is in place in a few regions (such as South Korea, Japan, USA), we expect an increase in small cell deployment starting towards the end of this year and building up in 2015.”
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times