Forward Concepts has merged its newsletter publication with seasoned colleagues at TIRIAS Research. Will’s personal experience with principals in TIRIAS Research goes back more than a dozen years and their technical and writing expertise will be a welcome expansion of the newsletter. Descriptions of the experienced analysts on Tirias’ staff are on their website . Will has become a contributor to the new newsletter and has also become a Senior Advisor to TIRIAS Research.

Join our eNewsletter

eNewsletter – 1/24/2017

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Jan 24, 2017 in 2017 | 0 comments

Exciting News from Forward Concepts Effective with this newsletter, Forward Concepts is merging its newsletter publication with seasoned colleagues at TIRIAS Research. My personal experience with principals in TIRIAS Research goes back more than a dozen years and their technical and writing expertise will be a welcome expansion of the newsletter. Descriptions of the experienced analysts on Tirias’ staff are on the linked website. This issue of our joint newsletter follows the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), so below you can see our informed coverage of the key technical innovations presented at the show. With the change, I will become a contributor to the new newsletter and will also be a Senior Advisor to TIRIAS Research. Of course, you can expect format changes with the next newsletter. What was Hot at CES 2017? – AI, AR, Autos, IoT & VR CES is so massive, that you can never see everything and every time you turn around, you see something new. CES used to be about anything that was connected to power – batteries, AC, or even renewable power. Now, however, CES also includes the last things you would ever think of being connected – from walking canes to saddles. If you can add sensors and connect them to a smart phone, router, or the cloud, rest assured that someone is trying to connect it…all in the name of collecting data and trying to add value to the consumer. As expected, CES was filled with new products, there were only a few standouts from the crowd. The first product to announce using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 was ODG (Osterhout Design Group) R-8 and R-9 AR smart glasses. These glasses are fully contained with better optics and Qualcomm processor inside the frames. The glasses also use the 835 to full effect with graphics for rendering, CPU for running Android, and the Hexagon DSP for inside-out motion tracking. While we’re on Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 820A gained automotive designs from Volkswagen for its infotainment systems. In addition, the company released the Qualcomm Neural Processing Engine and Symphony SDK to utilize heterogeneous computing cores (CPU, GPU, and DSP) for machine learning and computer vision. Qualcomm has plans to make the 820A part of ADAS systems. Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem for automotive with support for up to 1Gbps download speeds. NVIDIA’s DrivePX platform picked up support from Audi, Bosch, ZF, and Mercedes-Benz. NVIDIA’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang devoted about a third of his keynote to automotive and AI (Artificial Intelligence) required for autonomous and “co-piloted” driving. There was a plethora of new smartphones from the likes of ASUS, Huawei, ZTE, and others. Look for more devices as we approach Mobile World Congress (MWC) in late February. Thus far, the Huawei Honor 6x and Mate 9 continue to impress with sleek designs, long battery life, and dual cameras. The ASUS ZenFone AR includes Google’s Project Tango AR (Artificial Reality) platform. A key trend that we had anticipated this year was wireless in-ear audio solutions. There were hundreds of companies demonstrating new Bluetooth-connected headsets and earbuds, but only a select few that eliminate even the wires between the two ears, such as Earin and SkyBuds. The big winner from a technology standpoint appears to be NXP, as the more advance solutions were all using NXP Semiconductor’s near...

read more

eNewsletter – 10/27/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Nov 1, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Qualcomm Announces 1st 5G Modem. Now What? Last week at its 4G conference in Hong Kong, Qualcomm announced the first fifth generation cellular modem, the Snapdragon X50. Accompanying the modem are the SDR051 RF transceivers and PMX50 power management chip. Qualcomm was quick to point out that it was working with Verizon and others to prove in the device, since there is currently no deployed 5G network over which it can operate. Qualcomm indicated that the device should be available in cellphones in 2018, so you can keep your credit card in your pocket for now. The X50 is designed to initially work only in the 28GHz millimeter-wave spectrum (supporting the Verizon 5GTF and KT 5G-SIG specifications), it’s capable of 8x100MHz carrier aggregation, giving it access to 800MHz of spectrum versus 80MHz (4x20MHz) for Qualcomm’s X16 LTE modem. All this extra bandwidth enables up to 5Gbps on the downlink, opening new applications that were not practical at lower speeds. PCMag.com has a compelling narrative on the X50 here. Here’s Qualcomm’s infographic of the X50. Apple’s iPhone 7 Available with Qualcomm or Intel Modems. Should I worry? It’s well known by now that iPhone7s come in two versions. In the U.S., Intel’s LTE modem is employed in units sold through AT&T and T-Mobile, while the Qualcomm LTE modem is sold through Verizon, Sprint and other carriers requiring CDMA in addition to LTE, etc. There are on-line articles indicating that the Qualcomm modem has superior over-the-air performance. Cellular Insights bench testing indicates that Qualcomm modems outran Intel modems by 30% in overall performance, and 75% when the signal was as its weakest. Moreover, the Qualcomm-based iPhone7s also support TD-SCDMA, popular in China. Here are CI’s iPhone 7 findings. If you want a true “World iPhone 7” your best bet is to purchase (directly from Apple) an unlocked unit with the Qualcomm modem (Look for Models A1660 or A1661 on the back of the iPhone 7). I’m sure that real-world over-the-air experiences comparing the two iPhone7 versions will soon be appearing in cyberspace, but the average iPhone7 customer probably won’t be able to tell the difference. With Qualcomm’s introduction of the 1st 5G Modem (above), it should be clear that the company’s more extensive experience in cellular technology is paying off in superior 4G performance. However, now that it has demonstrated market viability, Intel is committed to doing better when the iPhone8 comes around, and likely they will be shopping their new LTE thin modem (sans application processor) to other cellphone companies. MediaTek Breaks into the U.S. Cellphone Market Last week, MediaTek announced the launch of its first-ever MediaTek-powered CDMA/LTE smartphone, the LG Stylo 2V. The LG device employs MediaTek’s Helio P10, a high-performance 4G octa-core processor clocked at 1.8 GHz and running the Android Marshmallow OS. MediaTek has been a significant player in the Asia cellphone market, starting out by initially dominating China’s “white-box” cellphone market. With that as a high-volume base, the company has continually added increased functionality to its application processors and expanded into the LTE market through its unique Coresonic DSP core. MediaTek was an early licensee of VIA Telecom’s CDMA modem technology, and through the LG Stylo 2V implementation has proved it to be a viable solution. VIA Telecom’s CDMA assets have since been purchased by Intel...

read more

eNewsletter – 9/30/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Oct 6, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by Will Strauss Qualcomm to Acquire NXP Semiconductors? Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Qualcomm is in talks to acquire NXP Semiconductors. It is obvious that Qualcomm is seeking to expand into markets beyond cellphones and there has been speculation about what acquisition would make sense for the San Diego-based company. Eindhoven-based NXP would be an appropriate target because it has a very broad product portfolio which could broaden Qualcomm’s market coverage. For example, it would expand Qualcomm’s automotive market by moving from its current dashboard play to engine and body control as well. And NXP became the number one chip supplier to the automotive market after its Freescale acquisition. That Freescale acquisition also brought to NXP a significant microcontroller portfolio and wireless infrastructure DSPs, including small-cell base station chips necessary for the 5G cellular infrastructure market. Qualcomm has a market value of about $95 billion and NXP’s market value is about $32 billion. The deal could close within the next two or three months, but the outcome is by no means certain. CEVA intros 5th Gen DSP Imaging & Vision Technology CEVA has introduced a new DSP-based offering bringing deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to low-powered embedded systems. Centered around a new imaging and vision DSP, the CEVA-XM6, the company provides a scalable integrated hardware and software platform to allow developers to harness the power of neural networks and machine vision for smartphones, autonomous vehicles, surveillance, robots, drones and other camera-enabled smart devices. By providing a new vector processor and scalar unit, substantial instruction set enhancements, improved memory bandwidth and direct memory access (DMA), the new XM6 is said to provide up to 8x higher performance for neural network workloads and up to 3x performance improvement across all computer kernels compared to the earlier CEVA-XM4. LeEco: Apple-sized Ambitions LeEco…”is a company with Apple-sized ambitions had a coming out party of sorts at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas. This company recently: acquired Vizio for $2 billion; opened up an 80,000 square foot office in Silicon Valley; spent $250 million to buy land in Santa Clara from Yahoo, which can house up to 12,000 employees; hired top talent from Samsung, Qualcomm, Ferrari, and Paramount; and has acquired a controlling stake in Coolpad, the world’s 6th largest mobile phone manufacturer.” That’s an excerpt from my colleague Mark Lowenstein’s latest newsletter, which I believe you will find to be a must-read. FAST to Improve on Arecibo No doubt, you’ve seen the news that China has completed the world’s largest radio telescope, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope or FAST in southern Guizhou province. The giant dish is tucked in a natural karst basin, similar to the natural karst basin in Puerto Rico that houses Arecibo, previously the largest radio telescope. The karst hills and mountains surrounding the radio telescopes provide a natural shield from outside interference. Details of FAST are available on-line, including the fact that tourist facilities on a nearby mountain are now complete. I’ll have to visit FAST and compare the experience with my visit to Arecibo described in my April 2013 newsletter (under “Smartphones Killing off Compact Cameras”) As always, I encourage your feedback. Will Strauss President & Principal Analyst Forward Concepts wis@fwdconcepts.com...

read more

eNewsletter – 8/29/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Sep 8, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Intel wants TSMC’s Apple Foundry Business Intel stated earlier that it wants to expand its foundry business, making chips for others. According to Nikkei Asian Review, Intel’s ambition is to convince Apple to engage Intel to fab its future-generation of A-series application processors. Apple’s current A-series chip business for iPhones is divided between TSMC and Samsung. It’s likely that Apple will be shipping some Intel LTE modem chips in the upcoming iPhone7 fabricated by TSMC. That’s a socket that will be shared with Qualcomm’s LTE modem chips. But Apple’s A-series chips for the iPhone 7 will probably be shipping from TSMC (and perhaps also from Samsung), with no involvement by Intel. On August 16, Intel announced that it will license technology from ARM, enabling it to secure more smartphone business. Intel is involved in some foundry business with Chinese mobile chip house Spreadtrum Communications. But, we believe that’s for chips based on X86 technology. Intel has a 20% stake in Spreadtrum. Intel also announced that LG Electronics as its first smartphone company to adopt (un-named) Intel chips following the ARM deal (of course, that could be for Intel’s existing LTE modem chip). To secure Apple business, Intel will have to offer a low-power CMOS capability compatible with ARM’s process recipe which Intel has not yet implemented. Intel’s current fabs are all designed for “max smoke,” not the 10nm low-power CMOS that Apple will require in a couple of years. So, Intel has the choice of converting an existing state-of-the-art fab (and losing its current PC chip capability) or finally equipping its latest, but now-empty, fab in Chandler Arizona. If it chooses the latter approach, Intel better hurry to get a mature process up and running there by 2019. For a paltry $1 billion, the new fab could probably be partially equipped and up and running by then. And for that equipping to make economic sense, Intel needs a big customer commitment. An Internet of Things sensor? A long-time colleague of mine who is now with DARPA asked me “Is there an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor?” I answered that I only knew of sensor hub chips, such as by ST, etc. Then I began to think, “Is there such a thing as an IoT-specific chip or chip set.” I can only think of LTE Cat Mx modems and MCUs glued together with software for IoT tasks. Qualcomm may have a Snapdragon version that comes close. Maybe one of my readers can enlighten me. I recall that Texas Instruments was once shipping a single-die 2G chip that included RF, PA and baseband for EDGE. The question arises as to whether that design could easily morph into low-end LTE Cat M1 or M2 IoT product. Maybe they could license the technology to someone brave enough to be in the cellular IoT chip market. I hope you all had a great Summer. As always, I encourage your feedback. Will Strauss President & Principal Analyst Forward Concepts...

read more

eNewsletter – 5/20/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on May 20, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Intel’s IoT products: A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet  When the term IoT (Internet of Things) came into vogue a year or two ago, chip companies raced to rename many products in their existing portfolio as IoT devices.  Intel was no exception. Intel’s rapid growth in its IoT product line has befuddled many. What IoT products does Intel actually make?  Well, the company’s IoT division was previously known as the “Embedded Products Division.” The rapid revenue growth was really based on renaming the existing division. Intel’s embedded products started out many years ago as “any Pentium-based product that didn’t go into a PC.” But now, my guess is that Intel’s IoT products are customer-defined ASICs and pre-defined modules enabling customer-specific designs, based on X86/Atom cores and sensors. Intel’s 2nd Entry to the Cellphone Business My last newsletter briefly told the history of Intel’s first ill-fated first entry into the cellphone chip business. Now, I’ll discuss Intel’s latest thrust (is that the proper word?) into that business. One should also note that about 10 years ago, Intel turned down a proposal from Apple to supply chips for what was to become the iPhone.  After all, at that time Intel was already supplying chips for Apple’s MAC products.  But, Intel management under Paul Otellini decided that it didn’t make economic sense, since the iPhone was not yet introduced and Apple set a price that Otellini said was below their forecasted cost.  Of course, Intel didn’t understand the volume implications that would drastically lower future costs. So, let’s step forward a few years: Intel’s second entry in the cellphone business began in August, 2010, when it acquired the wireless assets of Infineon Corp. for $1.4 billion. Infineon’s wireless business was booming, after all, its 2G/3G modems, based on CEVA DSP cores, were in all of Apple’s early iPhones. Perhaps in anticipation to the purchase of its wireless assets by Intel, a couple of months earlier Infineon purchased a small LTE modem startup in Dresden, Germany named Blue Wonder Communications (named for a famous blue bridge near Dresden). Blue Wonder had been developing an LTE-only modem based on Tensilica MCU cores (several implemented as DSPs). The Infineon (and later Intel) plan was to bond the acquired Tensilica-based LTE modem on to the CEVA-based 2G/3G modem. That was not easy, since it took another three years to produce a working multimode LTE modem, the XMM7160. I had informally commented to Intel management at the time that they would be better served to simply build on to the existing CEVA platform, but that idea was brushed aside since I was told, “It’ll take us another three years of work to field an LTE modem with that approach.” But it was late 2013 when Intel got its first “socket” for the XMM7160: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3 (10.1) tablet. As a side note, Renesas Mobile also had part of the Tab3 tablet socket with its own multimode LTE modem (later sold to Broadcom and then their LTE modem product line was later cancelled due to lack of available sockets). Note that over that same time period, China-based HiSilicon (Huawei’s chip subsidiary) developed its own multimode LTE modem based only on Tensilica cores (no ISA incompatibilities with 2G/3G operation, of course). But, during 2013...

read more

eNewsletter – 4/22/16

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Apr 28, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Intel Woes: Can it Right the Wireless Ship? Last month’s newsletter began with the lament by the late Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel.  His biggest regret that he was never able to get Intel to be significant in communication chips. Judging from the recent wireless executive departures, Andy’s regret remains in place. Also, in last month’s newsletter I mentioned that at Mobile World Congress, emphasis was clearly on its infrastructure product line (read: data centers & C-RAN) and IoT rather than cellphones. With Intel’s recent news release on layoffs and future emphasis on data centers and IoT, the tea leaves were clear. However, I believe that Intel is likely to continue in the cellphone chip business, even though their success to date has been lacking. It actually has some architectural strengths that have not been adequately stressed. For example, Intel was probably the first cellphone chip house to implement MIPI’s LLI (Low Latency Interface). This is an important distinction vs. Qualcomm’s early superiority over competitors due to being able ship an all-in-one single-chip baseband-processor. Intel’s first LLI appeared in its XMM7260 modem used inside of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha smartphone, and was able to eliminate the additional memory module which reduced both component cost and power consumption.  If Intel is ever able to get into an Apple cellphone socket, this may be one reason why. Intel desperately needs a major cellphone customer, and Apple is likely the only one that can quickly improve its poor market share of the LTE baseband chip market. As evident in the chart, Intel’s current market penetration is sorely lacking, since their LTE baseband market share last year was on a par with Chinese company Leadcore. History: Intel’s First Foray into Cellphone Chips It was under CEO Dr. Craig Barratt in 1999 that Intel bragged that “it had become a communications powerhouse” with two acquisitions: Level One Communications ($2.3 Billion), which was a major supplier of DSL chips and Israel-based DSP Communications, Inc. ($1.7 Billion) a major supplier of cellphone modem chips. Like many of its acquisitions, Level One was absorbed into Intel and after a few years eventually disappeared. In 1999, DSP Communications Inc. was the #2 CDMA merchant market modem chip manufacturer (after Qualcomm).  DSPC also had a major market share of the Japanese TDMA cellphone modem market (around 35%, if memory serves), and was also selling in quantity to a cellphone company in San Diego.  Unfortunately, Qualcomm bought that small company and began selling cellphones under its own brand name.  That, of course, dried up Intel’s modem sales to the, now, Qualcomm-brand cellphone company.  As a side note, those DSPC modems were all based on Texas Instruments DSP cores, not Intel’s, and Qualcomm eventually sold its cellphone business to Kyocera. After it failed in the CDMA modem business, Intel began development in the competing technology of TDMA based on new DSP technology co-developed with Analog Devices, Inc. (code-named Frio) and XScale (ARM-based) low-power processors acquired from DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.). Eventually, Ron Smith, a VP famous internally for his PC I/O contributions, was brought in to run the cellphone chip product line.  I spoke to Smith on two or three occasions (I was consulting variously with two of his technical minions) and it was clear that his emphasis was on...

read more

eNewsletter – 3/22/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Apr 1, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Andy Grove: Co-Founder of Intel Dies Dr. Andrew S. Grove died yesterday.  He was the co-founder of Intel Corp., along with Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce.  Andy, as everybody knew him, was very approachable, even when he was CEO of the world’s largest semiconductor company.  I didn’t know Andy well, but we did have a number of conversations, including his regret that he was never able to get Intel to be significant in communication chips.  Maybe his wish will finally be realized under current Intel management. Probably his best technical treatise, “Physics and Technology of Semiconductor Devices” is a classic and has long been my bible on semiconductor processes. I once taught semiconductor processing professionally, and the book was extremely helpful to me. Andy was a giant among giants.  He will be missed. MWC Revisited  This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was bigger than ever, and with better transportation through the new L9 Metro line going (almost) directly to the Gran Fira congress location. Weather was good the entire time and neither raingear nor heavy jackets were necessary. Clearly IoT was a growing theme by many exhibitors at MWC, with both Intel and Qualcomm providing demonstrations and analyst presentations. Intel has recently more than doubled its Chandler, Arizona IoT group to more than 500 people, supporting the product line’s IoT-centric chips, mostly fabricated in Israel. Intel was clearly emphasizing its infrastructure product line at MWC, supporting data centers and C-RAN trials.  The company demonstrated that they were employing its newly-acquired Altera FPGAs in wireless data equipment…for FFT/IFFT and RF/antenna interface functions…while performing all other Level 1 DSP functions through multiple Xeon processors. Although Intel showed LTE chip allegiance to implementing 3GPP Release 13 functions (like LAA), my overall impression was that LTE modems were not a major emphasis in Barcelona. Qualcomm, on the other hand, was pushing their new Snapdragon 820, with most high-end smartphone vendors around the show demonstrating the 820 in their products. The 820 employ’s Qualcomm’s x12 modem for Cat 12 LTE performance. Noted at the show were Samsung’s new 820-based flagship handsets for the U.S. Market, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. LG introduced the modular G5, which will be powered by Qualcomm’s chip around the world. And Sony introduced their Xperia X Performance smartphone and Xiaomi’s Mi 5 and HP’s Elite x3 all running on the Snapdragon 820 chipset. But there were a number of other smartphones sporting the 820. Qualcomm Takes Umbrage to CEVA Enabling “X16”-Like Modems At MWC’16, Qualcomm also introduced its next-generation X16 LTE modem chips, with features that are probably a year ahead of their competitors. Qualcomm pointed out that the quickly-following intellectual property offerings of CEVA’s (mentioned in my last newsletter) were a long way from enabling “X16”-like modem capability.  But, I believe that most people in the industry understand that CEVA is offering a platform for its licensees to exploit by adding a number of man-years of software, not a shipping chip product. Now-Shipping IoT LTE Chips At MWC, I met with both Sequans and Altair (recently purchased by Sony), both shipping IoT LTE Cat 1 chips in quantity and both plan to ship Cat M1 (formerly Cat M), and Cat M2 (formerly called Narrow Band-IoT) chips.  Both companies agree that Cat 0 will not emerge since...

read more

eNewsletter – 2/18/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Feb 29, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

Qualcomm Intros World’s 1st Gigabit LTE Modem Last week, Qualcomm announced the first modem to support Gigabit LTE.  The X16 supports LTE-A Pro Category 16 downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbps and Category 13 uplink speeds of 150 Mbps. With the X16, Qualcomm sets the Gigabit modem benchmark, a significant milestone for the entire mobile industry paving the way to 5G.   My more detailed write-up on the new product is in EETimes here. CEVA Enables “X16”-Like Modems Quickly following the Qualcomm announcement, yesterday IP licensor CEVA, Inc. announced its new CEVA-X4 DSP+Control processor targeting high-end basebands for smartphones with the system control capability to manage the entire modem.  When combined with the CEVA-XC4500, the X4 is said to enable next-generation LTE-A Pro modems that can compete with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X16.  No doubt, we’ll see more LTE-A Pro modem solutions rollout this year…perhaps even next week at Mobile World Congress.       New Low-Power Memory for IoT Products   Adesto Technologies Corp. is shipping what it claims to be the world’s lowest-power non-volatile memory device. Adesto offers CBRAM® (Conductive Bridging RAM) which is billed as the 1st commercial Resistive RAM product. CBRAM forms and dissolves a conductive link between two electrodes. Unlike Flash, no pre-erase is required. It employs a CMOS-compatible 2-mask process and is said to offer lower energy than Flash. Additionally, CBRAM uses lower write voltages and faster write operations compared to Flash. The technology is available as Moneta™ discrete devices designed as companion chips for Ultra Low Energy IoT Systems. It is also available as Mavriq™ serial memory.  CBRAM is said to offer longer battery life with smaller batteries or even no batteries since it has the ability to power from an energy harvesting source. Adesto’s Target Battery Operations or Energy Harvesting Applications Beacons in retail stores Commercial building sensors (external memory for OTA for wireless sensor nodes) Home medical monitoring and other sterilized medical equipment Hazardous/remote locations sensors Bluetooth low energy devices (with/without OTA updates) Applications using harvested energy from environment (e.g. solar, thermal electric – body heat, electromagnetic, and vibration energy) Data logging applications MWC Looms Next Monday, tens of thousands of wireless engineers, programmers, and executives (and their entourages) will converge on Barcelona for the world’s biggest and most influential wireless event, Mobile World Congress ’16.  Of course hundreds of reporters and a few dozen industry analysts like me will also be there. The event was known as 3GSM when I first attended in Cannes France some 11 years ago.  But attendance outgrew Cannes (and I had to stay in Nice for the last event in France) so the ever-growing event moved to Barcelona and later changed its name to MWC (GSM seemed so obsolete).  My schedule is about 90% filled, but I hope to at least to say “Hi” to many of you there. As always, I encourage your feedback. Will Strauss President & Principal Analyst Forward Concepts...

read more

eNewsletter – 1/26/2016

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Jan 27, 2016 in 2016 | 0 comments

MWC’16 Next month, Mobile World Congress, the premier conference and exhibition of the wireless industry will again be in Barcelona (2/22-2/25). It promises to be the biggest yet.  Although focus will be on the big smartphone chip suppliers, the show is broadening beyond cellular to include multiple forms of connectivity, increasingly for automotive applications. Witness Here the mapmaker which was formerly part of Nokia—it’s now owned by German auto makers Audi, BMW and Daimler. But other transportation markets are still addressed. For example, last week Here announced that it has been chosen by the U.S. Census Bureau to provide high grade map content to enhance the agency’s comprehensive portfolio of geographic information. I’ve personally used Nokia/Here maps on my Nokia cellphones in a dozen or more countries and they were spot on except for missing a few small towns in central Turkey and the map of Syria was intentionally misleading (and I was probably the last American tourist to leave Syria). But, back to the show.  My personal MWC schedule is filling fast and should be full by the end of this week.  From a logistics standpoint the biggest change in Barcelona is the new Metro L9 stop beneath the Fira.  The L9 can take you there directly to/from the airport or to/from the Zona Universitaria station (which connects to my L3 line), bypassing Espanya and that long walk to the sardine-packed trains. Huawei tops Xiaomi to Become #1 China Smartphone Maker Huawei became the first Chinese smartphone maker to pass the 100 million mark in a given year.  The company’s 108 million devices shipped in 2015 marked a 44% increase over the prior, also posting a 70% revenue growth to $20 billion in 2015.  Xiaomi, its main China competitor, shipped 72 million last year. This is certainly good news for Cadence Design Systems, since multiple Tensilica DSP cores are in every Huawei smartphone.  The #2 Tensilica DSP modem client is Intel for their LTE modems (Intel’s 2G/3G modems are based on CEVA DSP cores). Enterprise Electronics Gets Interesting From my colleague Jonathan Goldberg of D/D Advisors “While the Consumer Electronics (CE) Market always gets more attention, for this analyst the CE market has become dull. By contrast the market for Enterprise Electronics (EE) is poised to see significant changes in its corporate makeup. Changing customer buying patterns (i.e. 20 webscale companies buying ~30% of the industry’s output) and an explosion in software capabilities has brought about a major shift in competitive advantages in hardware. New companies are popping up, while older companies are steadily consolidating. This has unleashed five forces that will reshape the industry in coming years.” This is the preamble to Jay’s latest on-line  Digits to Dollars report #18. MediaTek Leaks 10-core Helio X20 Specs The MediaTek Helio X20 applications processor (MT6797) was announced last May for production slated for 2H/16. In “leaked” Geekbench 3 CPU benchmark comparisons, MediaTek reveals: Helio X20 7,037 Kirin 950 6,245 Snapdragon 820 5,400 Apple A9 4,578 But, some of the chips compared are shipping now.  And, later this year newer chips, like Qualcomm’s 830, will be announced, so it’s unclear how long the benchmark lead will last. Next month’s MWC will offer more clarity. The best write-up on the Helio X20 capability is by my long-time colleague Majeed Ahmad in SemiWiki.com....

read more

eNewsletter – 11/23/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Dec 7, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

CEVA Announces XC5 & XC8 DSPs for M2M/IoT This week, CEVA introduced two new power- and cost-optimized communication processors designed specifically to address the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications. The CEVA-XC5 and CEVA-XC8 DSP vector processors are the smallest and most power-efficient members of the CEVA-XC architecture, supporting the full range of emerging cellular protocols such as LTE MTC Cat-1, Cat-0 or Cat-M, as well as the suite of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) standards such as Lora, SigFox and Ingenu. Improvements in the CEVA-XC architecture have resulted in a 20% memory size reduction and the capability to allow multiple PHYs and MACs to run concurrently on the same processor with much reduced overhead. The XC5 is 40% smaller than any previous generation CEVA-XC processor and deploys an IoT-optimized Power Scaling Unit (PSU) which enables it to achieve up to 70% lower dynamic power consumption. The CEVA-XC5 and CEVA-XC8 DSPs come with complete DSP, LTE and legacy cellular software libraries, as well as a unified software development environment. The processors are available for licensing today. Qualcomm Launches Cat 1 LTE Modems As the leader in LTE-Advanced smartphone modems, and having recently introduced high-end 600 Mbps Cat 12 modems, Qualcomm has now introduced modems for the 10 Mbps-class IoT market.  Cat 1 modem chips are said to be ideal for wearables and IoT/M2M devices since their 10 Mbps downlink (& 5 Mbps UL) is more than adequate for such ultra-low-power applications. The Qualcomm MDM9206 Cat 1 modem follows Sequans and Altair in that market segment.  At the September CTIA conference, Sequans was demonstrating its Calliope LTE Platform in a network trial with T-Mobile and Altair was showing its FourGee-1160/6401 Cat 1 platform with Ericsson. So, it appears that Qualcomm has some catching up to do in this emerging market. Eran Eshed, Co-founder of Altair said that “…some Cat 1 chips are simply rebranded higher-category chips that are functionally compatible with Cat 1, but fall short on power consumption and die size. Since Qualcomm has yet to release detailed specifications on the MDM9206, we cannot comment as to whether Altair’s statement is applicable to Qualcomm’s chip or to others soon to be announced. Qualcomm also announced the MDM9207-1 which supports the upcoming narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology defined in 3GPP Release 13 and packs more horsepower and is intended for heavier IoT applications such as smart metering, security and industrial automation, while providing Cat 1 LTE connectivity.  The MDM9307-1’s features consist of power saving for devices communicating with the modem constantly or infrequently for up to a 10-year battery life. It sports a Linux-capable, Integrated Applications Processor (ARM Cortex A7 clocked at 1.2 GHz), GNSS global positioning, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and support for most major cellular standards (from GSM through LTE). The MDM9207-1 is expected to be in commercial devices in 1H/16, while the MDM9206 will likely follow later–after the 3GPP Release 13 is finalized. Shameless Plug We invite you to check out our newest report, “GLOBAL 4G SMART DEVICE & SUBSCRIBER MARKET UPDATE ‘15.” The report is an update from our March, 2015 report, expanded to 283 pages from the original 254-page report. It provides a detailed mid-2015 analysis of smartphone market shares in each of the 12 major global markets as well as forecasts for LTE smartphone...

read more