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Cellphone market spawns new GPS chipsets

Posted: 16 Apr 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:gps chips? gps handsets? location services? sirfstar-iie/lp? signal acquisition?

Sirf Technology Inc. is rolling out three derivatives of its global-positioning satellite chipset, claiming the market will grow dramatically later this year as some mainstream cellphone makers begin designing handsets with integrated GPS.

Sirf has respun its SirfStarIIe chipset in a 0.185m process to create the SirfStar-IIe/LP. It is also offering a simplified version of the chipset that off-loads navigation processing to a host CPU and another version that makes its GPS signal-acquisition technology available as a block that can be integrated with a host processor.

"There is a big shift coming in how GPS is used. Up to now it has been mainly adopted by the automotive industry, but in the second half of this year, wireless will start to become the largest segment of this industry," said Kanwar Chadha, founder and vice president of marketing for Sirf.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that 95 percent of all cellular subscribers in the United States have position location capabilities by 2005 and that by the end of next year, 95 percent of new handsets have the capability, Chadha reported. Carriers Nextel, Sprint and Verizonwhich, collectively, have a total of about 50 million subscribershave filed plans with the FCC stating they will use embedded GPS in handsets to meet that requirement. AT&T, Cingular and Voicestream will use a form of triangulation.

E911 the driver

The FCC mandate is helping drive cellular design wins for Sirf. At the recent CTIA conference in Orlando, Florida, Motorola Inc. announced that its iDen phone will use Sirf's GPS chipset and that Sirf will be its primary GPS partner with design wins across multiple products.

Also at the show, Matsushita announced a partnership to use Sirf's chipsets on CompactFlash and Secure Digital cards for mobile computing devices. And Sony Ericsson says it will design Sirf into telematics modules.

The mobile emergency-call directive, or E911, "is the driver for putting GPS in handsets, but once this infrastructure is built out, you will start to see location services get deployed," Chadha said. "I think that will happen starting next year."

Sirf's II/LP chipset is a migration of its IIe design from a 0.355m embedded DRAM to a 0.185m SRAM process, reducing power consumption to about 150mW from about 500mW. The internal core now runs at 1.8V, though I/O still runs at 3.3V.

The LP chipset consists of an RF device, built by STMicroelectronics and NEC, with integrated IF filter and made in a bipolar process. It has a separate baseband partly built by Samsung, which uses a 50MHz ARM core and 1Mb of SRAM.

Finally, the GPS signal acquisition baseband is available as a gate-level netlist to integrate into a host processor. This SirfStarII/IP version will be used mainly by cellphone makers trying to save cost and size. Sirf claims its intellectual property has already been licensed by five companies, which it declined to name.

Sirf recently, also closed a $20 million round of venture financing that drew investments from Intel and Dell. "The more we ramp up, the more money we need. We have multiple new classes of products to bring up," said Chadha.

? Rick Merritt

EE Times





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