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.

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eNewsletter – 10/14/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Oct 14, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Intel Acquires CDMA Modem Assets from Via Telecom Finally, Intel realized that it cannot be a major player in the LTE modem market unless it also has a CDMA capability.  CDMA is required for any smartphone on Verizon’s huge network (and for China Telecom–paired with LTE–and some networks in Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere).  So on October 1, 2015, the CDMA assets of Via Telecom were acquired by Intel. That earlier lack of CDMA capability may be behind ASUSTeK’s decision earlier this year to drop Intel’s LTE modem for Qualcomm’s.  That certainly had to be a disappointment, since ASUSTeK is Intel’s largest customer for PC motherboards and has also been its largest cellphone customer. Until now, only Qualcomm and MediaTek have fielded “World Modems” that can be in just about any smartphone, worldwide.  Qualcomm invented CDMA and MediaTek was smart enough to earlier incorporate Via Telecom’s CDMA modem in its LTE product line (which has paid off handsomely for them at China Telecom). What’s more, the rumors last quarter of Intel’s LTE modems getting into some percentage of next year’s iPhones didn’t take into account that most iPhones must also have a CDMA capability.  Now that Intel seems to have solved that omission, maybe the iPhone/Intel modem rumors will pop up again. As an aside, the Via Telecom CDMA modems are based on licensed CEVA DSP cores, as are Intel’s current 2G/3G basebands (that are also integral to its LTE modems). We expect to see first silicon in 1H/16. Qualcomm Announces Upgraded X12 LTE Modem Qualcomm announced that it has upgraded its X12 LTE modem to be employed in the upcoming Snapdragon 820.  The upgraded X12 LTE supports 3GPP Category 12 downlink speeds of up to 600 Mbps and Cat 13 uplink speeds of up to 150 Mbps. That is compared to the initial announcement of Cat 10 450 Mbps downlink and 100 Mbps uplink speeds. Not only that, the X12 also offers tri-band Wi-Fi at 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz. And to tie that in with LTE, the device handles LTE-U and LWA (LTE and Wi-Fi Link Aggregation).  The modem also features cognitive link selection of Wi-Fi or LTE, whichever offers the best communication.  Qualcomm calls this feature its Zeroth™ Platform. As one would expect, the X12 modem also supports voice over LTE (VoLTE) and video over LTE (ViLTE). The X12 is clearly the most advanced LTE modem in the world and is part of Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 820 processor but is also available as a separate discrete modem. The Snapdragon 820 begins early sampling through the last half of this year and is slated to ship in consumer devices in the first half of 2016. Now there is “Cellphones as a Service” (CaaS) Software as a Service (SaaS) has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, and Microsoft’s Office 365 is a prime example.  Instead of purchasing Microsoft’s Office suite software (with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) for a fixed price, now Microsoft also offers Office 365 as a service which is priced as low as $6.99/month.  So, in essence, you are “renting” the software as a service. Now, there appears to be Cellphones as a Service (CaaS) on the horizon. Apple now offers through its own stores the iPhone 6s and related products under...

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eNewsletter – 9/17/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Sep 10, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Intel Gets into the Audio DSP Business From information gleaned from last month’s Intel Developer Forum (IDF), it’s clear that Intel is serious about making DSP chips for speech and audio. Intel’s “Audio Offload Engines (a Hardware DSP)” is touted as providing audio, voice and speech experiences and acoustic innovation…for the PC and tablet market. In addition, Intel offers speaker improvement though “integrated offload engine (a Hardware DSP)” with firmware and software open to third parties. Intel freely admits that offloading audio functions to specialty DSP chips is the best way to reduce power consumption (compared to performing the same functions on an X86 processor). Intel also introduced the Firmware Development Kit for its Audio Offload Engine. Although not explained, Intel dropped the hint that the DSP silicon will be based on Tensilica’s Xtensa engine.  It also appears that this Audio Offload Engine will be a co-packaged chip with Intel’s next-generation Skylake microarchitecture. Qualcomm Expands Hexagon DSP offerings Traditionally, Qualcomm has been the leader in cellphone DSP and in the upcoming Snapdragon 820, three new Hexagon™ DSPs are employed for maximum performance and efficiency. First, the 820’s powerful modem DSP enables the company’s X12 global multimode LTE carrier-aggregation modem capability, initially enabling 3GPP Category 10 operation for 450 Mbps downlink and 100 Mbps uplink speeds. Through its new Compute DSP Snapdragon 820 introduces new premium tier user experiences including advanced photography, computer vision, VR and machine learning while simultaneously lowering system power requirements by eliminating energy intensive CPU tasks, shifting to the more efficient compute-optimized Hexagon 680 DSP.  The 680 features the HVX vector extensions coprocessor for Low Power Compute, Audio, Voice, Advanced Image/Video Processing and Computer Vision. The 680 DSP is a highly efficient multithreaded programmable compute engine that enables concurrent execution of audio and imaging tasks. An important sensor hub capability is provided through the 820’s Low Power Island, which employs a very low power independent DSP that acts as a sensor hub for positioning, acceleration and more.  As a dedicated lower power island with always-on capability drastic power savings accrue over employing the CPU for such functionality. The Snapdragon 820 begins early sampling through the last half of this year and is slated to ship in consumer devices in the first half of 2016. iPhone 6s will Keep Apple Ahead This week, Apple introduced several things, but our main interest is in the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus smartphones.  Both are powered by Apple’s new A9 3rd generation 64-bit application processor which is said to be 70% faster than the A8 in the “old” iPhone 6.  Embedded on the die is the M9 motion co-processor, which is probably an embedded version of the NXP sensor hub/co-processor employed in the earlier iPhone 6.  The tech press will be covering most of this in detail but I’ll highlight what else I found interesting. Cameras have been upgraded, with the main camera upgraded to 12 MP from the 8 MP version in the iPhone 6 and the front-facing camera upgraded to 5 MP.  Apple touts the addition of pressure sensing to the touch input, enabling peek into email content or access app features from the home screen icons.  Of course, many new photo and video software additions enhance the user experience. From a communications standpoint, the LTE-Advanced...

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eNewsletter – 8/19/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Aug 20, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

ITU makes it Official: 5G is IMT-2020 In addition, the ITU vision and roadmap for the 5G standard defines 5G as networks capable of transmitting data at up to 20 Gbps. In addition, the ITU has declared that 5G networks will have a capacity to provide over 100 Mbps data rates to over 1 million IoT devices within one square kilometer. Unfortunately, nobody knows how we will get to these performance figures. Presumably, the technology will become available about the year 2020.  However, I doubt that will be achieved since LTE Carrier aggregation will continue growing network capabilities over the next 5 years and beyond. See chart below. Note that only one U.S. network (Sprint) has fielded Cat 6 on a general rollout. China Telecom Rolls out World’s Largest FDD-LTE Network On August 1st, China Telecom announced that it has completed construction 460,000 LTE base stations in 17 cities, providing it with the world’s largest FDD-LTE network. What’s more, the network has adopted carrier aggregation technology for Category 6 (Cat 6) LTE-A operation (300 Mbps down link and 50 Mbps up link). Of course, having a Cat 6 network requires smartphones capable of Cat 6 LTE-A operation. Currently, U.S. cellphones with that capability employ only Qualcomm modems, but its competitors have “announced” chips with that capability, but none have been observed shipping in Cat 6-capable cellphones…yet. LTE MODEM CLASSES Modem Class Peak Throughput Speeds Carrier Aggregation CAT 10 450 Mbps DL 100 Mbps UL 3×20 MHz DL 2×20 MHz UL CAT 9 450 Mbps DL 50 Mbps UL 3×20 MHz DL CAT 7 300 Mbps DL 100 Mbps UL 2×20 MHz DL 2×20 MHz UL CAT 6 300 Mbps DL 50 Mbps UL 2×20 MHz DL CAT 4 150 Mbps DL 50 Mbps UL 2×10 MHz DL Marvell Claims First to Launch Inexpensive Rel. 10 LTE Modem This week Marvell announced a “cost-effective” LTE-A platform with carrier aggregation with 20+20 MHz support for Cat 7 operation (see chart). The quad-core (1.5 GHz) 64-bit ARMADA Mobile PXA1918 features an ARM Cortex-A53 processor and supports all cellular standards except CDMA. Also announced this week was AT&T data and voice (VoLTE) validation of Marvell’s ARMADA PXA1928 (1.5 GHz) and PXA1908 (1.2 GHz) multimode Cat 4 LTE solutions. Both platforms also feature quad Cortex-A53 processors. Qualcomm Completes CSR Acquisition Cambridge Silicon Radio Ltd. has become Qualcomm Technologies International Ltd. The $2.4 billion acquisition is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Technologies adding new products and customers in the areas of audio, IoE and automotive, key growth priorities for Qualcomm. Cellphone Layoffs Continue It’s going to be a long hot summer for the smartphone world. Last month, I announced the pending layoffs at Qualcomm, Marvell and Microsoft’s cellphone operation.  This month, Lenovo and its subsidiary Motorola have announced restructuring, with Motorola taking over Lenovo’s Smartphone Division, leading to layoffs of 500 jobs at Motorola’s Chicago headquarters and 3,200 Lenovo workers. Sony is reported to be laying off 2,000 of its 7,000 mobile unit workers. Blackberry is making an unknown number of job cuts.  HTC has announced that it is cutting 2,250 people by the end of the year, amounting to some 15% of the company workforce. Likely, there will be more such announcements coming. As always, I encourage your feedback. Will Strauss President &...

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eNewsletter – 7/17/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Jul 22, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Cellphone Market Shrinks in 1st Half: Layoffs Loom The cellphone market shrank in early 2015 for the first time in six years, with low single-digit growth predicted for 2H15. Consequently, layoffs are rumored for several cellphone-related companies, including chip market leader Qualcomm.  We’ll know next week at its quarterly report announcement, but rumors are of 4,000 jobs in jeopardy after a 1,400-person layoff last December. But Qualcomm is not alone.  Microsoft, is said to be shedding some 7,800 people over the next several months, many associated with its Lumia cellphone business. Marvell Scales Back LTE Modem Business With the announcements last week of the closure its Austin, Texas design facility and its wireless operations in Israel, Marvell Technology Group has signaled a major overhaul of its LTE modem business.  Although the company’s well-regarded multimode PXA1908 LTE modem solution has been shipping in volume, apparently not in high enough volume to keep the 100s of engineers on board. Presumably, the company’s Shanghai design center will take up the slack. Our contacts in Israel indicate that many of the now-surplus engineers (close to 100) are finding positions with Intel and Huawei there.  Hopefully, many of the Austin layoffs (about 50) will find positions at Qualcomm, Freescale/NXP or Silicon Laboratories in that city. Sadly, Marvell has found, as did Broadcom, that the 4G modem business is now firmly in the hands of a few companies. Besides Marvell, the current announced multimode LTE modem players are HiSilicon, Intel, Leadcore, MediaTek, Qualcomm, Samsung and Spreadtrum. Sprint: First Live LTE Carrier Aggregation in U.S. This week, Sprint became the first U.S. cellular carrier to roll out live 2x carrier aggregation (CA) in the U.S.  This CA move enables 300 Mbps peak downlink speeds and 10 Mbps uplink speeds (CAT 6). That’s twice as fast as current 4G networks. Twenty-nine cities are in the initial roll-out, with more to follow. But, having a carrier that provides CAT 6 (or better) operation also requires LTE-A smartphones. Qualcomm leads the pack in LTE-A modem chips and they seem to be in most of the Sprint’s current CA smartphone lineup: Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Samsung Galaxy Note Edge LG G Flex 2 LG G4 HTC One M9 ZTE Hot Spot Canada has already begun CAT 6 operation through at least two carriers. Other U.S. carriers have indicated that they will begin offering CA capability later this year. Qualcomm, Microsoft & Allwinner Address Low-end Windows 10 Market According to Taiwan-based Digitimes, Qualcomm is working closely with Microsoft to support the Windows Mobile 10 platform and Microsoft is planning to release a low-cost (US $80) smartphone in the fourth quarter.  To implement the cheaper silicon, Qualcomm has aggressively cooperated with China-based Allwinner for Windows Mobile 10-based entry-level smartphones and tablets with phone functionality.  Qualcomm is planning to use its entry-level Snapdragon 210 platform and since there are no licensing fees to Microsoft for the O/S the overall cost for the combination is said to be much more competitive compared to Android-based entry-level solutions. Allwinner plans to release several tablets with 3G/4G cellphone capability, with 4G versions for the U.S. and Europe and 2G/3G versions for the China “white box” market, currently dominated by MediaTek and Spreadtrum. It should be noted that Intel has partnered with China-based Rockchip to...

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eNewsletter – 6/17/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Jun 24, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Samsung Demos World’s First Public Safety LTE Net PS-LTE (Public Safety LTE) may become the next solution for first responders and public safety applications. Samsung has introduced push to talk technology that allows team captains to rapidly call many people at once and also employs eMBMS technology that transfers HD images to many terminals, even when crowds are in disaster areas.  In addition, the company introduced device-to-device technology that supports communication between units even when base stations are destroyed by a disaster.  Currently, only Korean partners are participating, but if it lives up to its promise, global implementation could follow. DoCoMo first to open VoLTE net for Global Certification trials Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has become the first member of the Global Certification Forum (GCF) to open up a VoLTE network for field trials. The forum is considered the de facto standard for device certification for 3GPP/2 technologies – GSM, 3G/UMTS, LTE and CDMA2000. The move aligns with the forum’s goal of encouraging mobile device manufacturers to verify the interoperability of their devices with VoLTE commercial networks. Although there are already several VoLTE network rollouts, interoperability with other networks will likely require GCF certification. SIGFOX: M2M/IoT Shadow Cellular Network France-based SIGFOX has ambitious plans to eventually rollout a global cellular network that occupies local ISM bands (868 MHz in Europe and 902 MHz in the US) for Ultra Narrow Band operation for low-throughput devices (up to 140 messages per day, each with up to 12 bytes of payload data). They plan for their own towers and base stations and have pilot networks deployed in a few European locations. The first M2M networks that I encountered many years ago employed the GSM signaling channel for low-bit-rate transmission.  At the time, occasionally monitoring the liquid level in port-city petroleum tanks was the main application. SIGFOX envisions many more applications, including agriculture, healthcare, intelligent buildings, automotive and home meter monitoring (watch out ZigBee). The company claims to have raised €100 million and is now looking for solutions enablers, who can use SIGFOX either to replace existing connectivity such as Mesh networks or GSM, or to create entirely new and innovative applications. Samsung is an investor and is said to be incorporating SIGFOX’s network technology into Artik, its platform of integrated hardware, software and tools for developing on IoT objects. SIGFOX is solely dedicated to the transport of messages and is therefore completely independent of application-specific hardware and software solutions. Naturally, this aborning network could fill a market need as GSM networks are retired.  Singapore operators plans to retire their GSM networks in 2017 to enable more spectrum for 4G operation.  Others, including AT&T, may also retire their GSM networks beginning in 2017 for the same reason. However, most European operators have no plans to make the change before 2020 and some have indicated 2025 as their goal. Low-bit-rate fallback could be 2G EDGE networks and even upcoming LTE category 0 or future LTE-M (LTE for M2M) operation.  Check out Forward Concepts’ market predictions for cellular-based M2M/IoT in our recent EETimes article here. Nokia’s LTE “Network in a Box” Cellular operators have long used COWs (Cell on Wheels) as temporary base stations to augment existing cellular networks for major sporting events, conventions and disaster areas or where permanent cellular base stations are not practical for economic or...

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eNewsletter – 5/19/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on May 19, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Cellular Modems are based on Legacy DSP Cores All wireless modems are based on DSP technology. Once upon a time cellphone modems employed off-the-shelf DSP chips, mostly from AT&T, NEC and Texas Instruments. Today all cellular handset and cellular tablet modems are based on DSP cores that are integrated into more functional system on chip (SoC) solutions. This chart is a “peek under the hood” to reveal the DSP cores employed in today’s cellular user modems.  Note that some employ one type of core for 2G/3G operation, but another type for 4G/LTE operation.  It should also be noted that new generations of the base cores have evolved over time. Cellular Modem DSP Cores Company 2G/3G LTE Access Network Tech. Tensilica Tensilica Altair none Altair Ericsson Ericsson Ericsson GCT none GCT HiSilicon/Huawei Tensilica Tensilica Intel CEVA Tensilica Leadcore CEVA CEVA Marvell FRIO FRIO MediaTek FRIO Coresonic Nvidia Icera Icera Qualcomm Qualcomm Qualcomm Samsung CEVA CEVA Sequans none ZSP Spreadtrum CEVA CEVA Coresonic: Owned by MediaTek FRIO: Jointly developed by Intel and Analog Devices Tensilica: Now part of Cadence Design Systems ZSP: Licensed by VeriSilicon (US) Inc.    Finally…Intel’s 4G Cellphone Chips get to North America Yesterday, ASUS announced that the ZenFone 2 will be available later this month in North America. This is the first smartphone powered by an Intel® Atom™ processor (Moorefield) paired with the Intel® XMM™ 7260 LTE Advanced modem in North America. The smartphone will be available at Amazon.com, Groupon.com and NewEgg.com in the U.S., and NCIX.com, Canada Computer and Memory Express in Canada.   MediaTek’s 4G Chips also finally get to North America Alcatel’s POP Astro™ 4G smartphones are now available atT-Mobile stores in the US. The device is powered by MediaTek’s quad-core MTK6732 LTE Cat 4 processor. Alcatel Mobile Phones started as a joint venture between Alcatel-Lucent of France and TCL Communication of China, but AlcaLu sold its shares in TCL and now TCL Mobile Ltd. manages both Alcatel Mobile Phones and TCL Mobile Phone brands. MediaTek has also announced that its MT6735 quad-core 4G 64-bit chip solution has been adopted by TCL, Lenovo and ZTE for their upcoming smartphones, and some are due to begin shipping this month.   Marvell’s 4G Cellphone Chips Shipping to China Unicom Marvell’s ARMADA® mobile PXA1908 5-mode 4G LTE Chipset is shipping to China Unicom through Yousun Communications Device’s smartphone named XiaoLaJiao (“Small Chile”).Said to be the first RMB 399 ($64) 5” 4G LTE smartphone in China.  This follows the April announcement of the HongLaJiao (“Red Chile”) smartphone for the China Unicom market.  I suspect that the names were inspired by the better-known XiaoMi (“Small Rice”) and its HongMi (“Red Rice”) line of smartphones. This move follows the March 2015 announcement of the PXA1908 shipping in Samsung’s Galaxy J1. Note, however, that Spreadtrum also claims to now be shipping its SC7727S in 3G Galaxy J1 smartphones.   Nvidia to Close its Icera Modem Operation Nvidia has found, as did Broadcom, that the 4G modem business is now firmly in the hands of a few companies…whose modems now account for most of those employed in cellphones and tablets. Nvidia’s Icera acquisition led to 4G USB modems in the form of the i500 chip and the Tegra 4i SoC which integrated the 4G modem with a Tegra application processor. Unfortunately, modem...

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eNewsletter – 4/15/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Apr 17, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Samsung Galaxy S6: A Banner Month for CEVA It’s clear from the early rave reviews that Samsung’s LTE Galaxy S6 handsets will be selling very well. In a departure from its previous models for the U.S. and Europe, Samsung is not employing a Qualcomm LTE modem. Rather, The Galaxy S6 for AT&T and others employs Samsung’s own Shannon 333 LTE modem, along with its own PMIC, RF transceiver and envelope tracking IC. The Shannon 333 modem is based on licensed DSP cores from CEVA. And last week China-based Spreadtrum announced volume shipments of its quad-core 5-mode LTE platform (SC9830A). And that platform is also based on licensed DSP cores from CEVA. With shipments beginning last week, China-based Xiaomi released its ultra-affordable Redmi 2A handset based on Leadcore’s quad-core L1860C LTE chipset. Meanwhile the Redmi 2 and Redmi 1S devices continue shipping and are based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 and 400 chipsets, respectively. The L1860C includes an LTE modem also based on CEVA DSP cores.  The Redmi 2A began shipping last week with an introductory price of $80, certainly the cheapest LTE smartphone on the planet. LTE “Essential Patents” Ranking In my January 2015 newsletter, I pointed out that LG claimed to have the most essential LTE patents, accounting for some 29% of them.  However, others beg to differ. For example, Ericsson claims to have made the greatest number of approved LTE submissions to the 3GPP standards body, based on a November 2014 study prepared by Signals Research Group.  Although a 1:1 correlation between standards body submissions and patents is not claimed, the report brings some doubt on LG’s #1 essential patent ranking.  It should be noted that Ericsson claimed 25% of essential LTE patents in June, 2010, but undoubtedly has made many more patent applications since then. I have examined a number of essential patent ranking articles from 2010 until now and the top 5 companies mentioned tend to be Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and InterDigital, with LG further down in the list. Of course there are others with essential patents, including Nortel, Samsung, Panasonic, Motorola/Google, etc.  There are consultants that track essential IPR for clients, but until patent aggregators, like Via Licensing, or 3GPP provide explicit information the rest of us will have to go with our gut feel. Intel Takes Issue with Cavium’s Claim to be 1st to Market with C-RAN In my March newsletter, I pointed out that Cavium claimed to be 1st with a working cloud radio access network (C-RAN) solution based on their MWC demo.  However, Intel claims that their demos in the Alcatel-Lucent booth at MWC proved theirs to be first. AlcaLu calls their version of NFV-based virtualized RAN as vRAN and runs on Intel Xeon processors connected to remote radio heads which were on display at booths by Intel, China Mobile and Telefonica. vRAN systems will be available for customer trials this year with commercial operation in 2016. ASUS ZenFone2: A First for Intel ASUSTeK has announced the first smartphone in China powered by Intel’s 64-bit Atom (Moorefield) quad-core processor and the 5-mode Intel XMM7262 LTE modem. The Cat 4+ modem supports LTE-A, carrier aggregation and FDD & TDD for both China and global markets. Maybe we’ll finally see Intel’s LTE chips in the North American smartphone market. Embedded Vision Summit Forward...

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eNewsletter – 3/16/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Mar 17, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

MWC’15 Observations It’s hard to visualize hundreds of wireless executives in dark suits crammed on trains like cattle every morning and evening on their way to and from MWC at the Barcelona Gran Fria. But, with over 90,000 attendees it was expected. It’s clear though, there were more open collars and fewer ties with the suits this year. And, it’s a ritual necessary for networking and learning about the latest wireless products. Clearly, the biggest overall theme was 5G, followed closely by IoT, but there appeared to be more wearables than at CES. It will be interesting to see if the new Apple Watch will allow breathing room for those wearables. Below, I’ll discuss a few products that caught my attention at the Mobile World Congress, some of which did not make the headlines. Marvel Wins Big LTE Socket At MWC, Marvell demonstrated its Armada Mobile PXA1908 platform with a 5-mode LTE modem which is in Samsung’s low-end Galaxy J1 LTE smartphone that began shipping in January. The PXA1908 features a quad-core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A53 application processor.  With its strong China presence, Marvell will likely be the #2 LTE chipset supplier this year (following Qualcomm). Details of the PXA1908 are here.  There were strong rumors at MWC that Marvell’s wireless operations might be paired, sold or merged in some way with a big Chinese organization.  We’ll be watching. LTE Cat 1/Cat 0 Emerges At MWC, both Altair Semiconductor and Sequans Communications were showing their new LTE Cat 1 (10 Mbps DL) and future Cat 0 (1 Mbps DL) modems.  Category 1 modems were included in the original 3GPP LTE specification, while lower-cost and lower-throughput Cat 0 is in upcoming 3GPP release. Offering low-cost platforms for IoT/M2M, the single-mode LTE solutions appear to be ideal for a number of applications, including vending machines, kiosks, digital signage, touch panels and other industrial devices at a low price point. Note that both types are also labeled as LTE-M for machine-type communications. Forward Concepts also has an upcoming report on IoT/M2M in April. Cavium 1st to Market with C-RAN At MWC, Cavium displayed a full C-RAN Demo on its 48-processor ThunderX 64-bit ARMv8-A based optimized COTS server working in conjunction with Smart Radio Heads built on the company’s Octeon Fusion® “base station on a chip.” The Fusion multimode eNode B solution is based on purpose-built baseband DSP cores, LTE/3G hardware accelerators, Cavium-developed LTE stack and digital front end (DFE) features. Rather than employ fiber or CPRI links to the remote radio head, Cavium chose to employ Ethernet, which requires more processing at the radio head, but is said to be a more efficient way to implement the “front haul” fabric. In the U.S. there is currently little dark fiber deployed at base stations so Ethernet may be a better solution for C-RAN here. Intel: Finally a Complete Cellular Portfolio At MWC, Intel introduced its XMM™7360 LTE-CA modem, with 3x carrier aggregation and 5-mode capability.  Like rival Qualcomm, it will include envelope tracking for power efficiency and will have a Dual-SIM capability (necessary for China). The company also introduced its com-processors with connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth & GNSS): Intel dual-core 64-bit Atom X3-C3130 with Mali 400 MP2 Graphics, 2G/3G/HSPA+ Intel quad-core 64-bit Atom X3-C3230-RK (Rockchip), Mali 400 MP4 Graphics, 2G/3G/HSPA+ Intel  quad-core 64-bit...

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eNewsletter – 2/17/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Feb 18, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

Intel Completes Siemens Acquisition?? With the pending purchase of Lantiq Semiconductor, Intel will have acquired the former wireline part of Infineon that was split off as Lantiq before Intel bought the surviving Infineon wireless operation…through which Intel gained a strong foothold in the cellphone chip market. Intel said that the purchase is to expand its range of chips used in Internet-connected gadgets, namely M2M or IoT chips. Except for the memory operation (that was earlier spun off by Infineon), this move effectively makes Intel the acquirer of the Siemens AG communications semiconductor business. India’s New Fabs Last week, Cricket Semiconductor, a US-based company announced plans for the creation of an analog foundry in India. The company’s founders include ex-TI’ers Lou Hutter (CEO) and Mark Howard. The plan for the new fab in Madhya Pradesh is to be associated with an existing (un-named) fab for operational assistance. With an investment of close to $1 billion, this is a significant undertaking. In addition, the local government is providing free land, reimbursement for the cost of building the fab shell, 24X7 power supply from two separate power grids and quality water supply at the doorsteps of the fab units at an internationally competitive price fixed for 10 years. This approach addresses some of the key problems that have hindered fab development in India: namely access to dependable power and water. Anyone who’s visited India for some time has experienced its occasional power blackouts. And there has been one other problem. The British left India with some key legacies: 1)     Cricket 2)     The English language 3)     The railroad, and 4)     Government bureaucracy India’s first fab, some 30 years ago, was for the Indian Telephone Company. A colleague who consulted on the fab told me of ridiculous bureaucratic roadblocks in getting the fab up and running.  For example, he pointed out that a pallet of photoresist sat on the airport tarmac for months waiting for customs clearance. Of course, the resulting material wasn’t even good for glue. Hopefully the bureaucracy problem has now been adequately addressed, but I’m unaware of any newer fabs in India, until now. Two additional (digital) IC fabs that are planned for India include: 1. A fab proposed by Jayprakash Associates in partnership with IBM and TowerJazz near Noida, Uttar Pradesh.  Technology proposed are 90, 65 and 45 nm nodes in the first phase. 2. The other fab is coming up near Gandhinagar, Gujarath, proposed by Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (HSMC) in partnership with STMicroelectronics and Silterra. Technology proposed are also 90, 65 and 45 nm nodes in Phase 1. I’ll be watching, and I just set my watch. LTE-U Gains Friends and Foes LTE-U is simply applying LTE air interface technology to wireless communication over the “unlicensed” 5GHz band. That’s the same band that Wi-Fi and a myriad of other things (medical/industrial, etc.) also occupy.  By employing the current “licensed” LTE as an “anchor” paired with another communication link greater effective bandwidth is provided in the downlink to the user (uplink is ruled out for technical reasons).  Several companies are active in developing LTE-U, including Ericsson, SK Telecom and Qualcomm. Naturally, they all see grater bandwidth, expanded service offerings and more product sales accruing from the approach. There are several approaches to expanding bandwidth through LTE pairings (besides LTE-A),...

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eNewsletter – 1/15/15

Wireless/DSP Newsletter by on Jan 20, 2015 in 2015 | 0 comments

CES Impressions I must confess that I only attended CES for two days.  However, a few things stood out for me there (besides smartphones, wearables and curved TVs): 1)     There was a small air force of drones, from one that fit in your hand (for overhead “selfies”) to those that could easily carry a big Amazon package across town.  Not only was there a compete section for flying robotics (labeled “unmanned systems”) in one hall, but mesh cages with active drone exhibits were in almost every hall. 2)     There were lots of action cameras; not just GoPro’s, but some that appeared to be unabashed copies of GoPro devices. Many action cameras were attachable to drones and some drones featured their own brand of cameras. Helmets and bicycles seemed to be popular attachment destinations, too.  I didn’t ask how many action camera users made the “Darwin Awards” last year. 3)     Chinese invasion: I counted 16 exhibiting companies whose names began with Shanghai (like Shanghai Tianai Acoustics Co. Ltd.). There were 32 with names beginning with Guangzhou (called Canton by the British). And there were 41 with names beginning with Ningbo (like Ningbo Taina Electronics Company). However, I counted 417 exhibitors whose company names began with Shenzhen (like Shenzhen Along Electronic Co. Ltd.).  Of course, there were many more Chinese companies from other cities that exhibited. I remember in the early ‘80s when Shenzhen was simply a goods-smuggling town close to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Since the late-‘80s, the town has become a big, thriving (and crowded) city with more start-ups than Silicon Valley while Hong Kong has become part of the People’s Republic of China (kind-of). LG Claims LTE Patent Leadership: A Qualcomm Problem? LG Electronics said on January 12 that the company has been ranked No. 1 in the world in terms of competitiveness of LTE and LTE-A standard essential patents for 4 years in a row since 2012.  That’s according to TechIPm, a US-based consulting company specializing in patents. As of August 2014, LGE is said to account for 29% of all standard essential patents and was ranked No. 1, followed by Samsung Electronics (16%), Qualcomm(8%), InterDigital (7%), Google (Motorola, 7%) and Nokia (7%). Note that in September 2011, Jefferies & Co. also ranked LGE #1 in essential LTE patents (with 23% of the patent pool), followed by Qualcomm (21%) and 9% each for Motorola Mobility, InterDigital, Nokia and Samsung. It’s interesting to speculate what caused the percentages to change since 2011, if they really did. It is common knowledge that Qualcomm has held the majority of patents in CDMA and WCDMA and licensing them has been responsible for about half of the company’s annual profits.  However, Qualcomm’s patent position in LTE is not nearly as dominant. Consequently, as LTE rises and CDMA/WCDMA diminishes over time, the company’s licensing revenue has to moderate, requiring adjustments to its overhead.  And that’s even if its China licensing royalties are negotiated downwards [as is rumored].  These could be reasons for Qualcomm’s recent 600-person layoff. Sequans Introduces 1st Category 1 LTE Chipset Sequans Communications S.A. (Paris, France) has announced the Calliope LTE Platform, said to be the world’s first Cat 1 LTE chipset. Cat 1 chips are said to be ideal for wearables and IoT/M2M devices since their 10...

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