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Agere unveils 3G baseband-processing scheme

Posted: 19 Feb 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:agere systems? multimedia-handset architecture? vision architecture? sceptre hp? mobile processor?

Agere Systems Inc. has rolled out a multimedia-handset architecture it says can shave as much as half a year off of a design cycle. The Vision architecture combines a digital baseband chipset, proven software and advanced tools, the company said.

The architecture folds a communications processor core, an applications processor core and an Agere 16-bit digital signal processor into a two-piece chipset. The company says it will be integrated over time into a single-chip device.

No details were given on how the different processors are partitioned, but Graham Carter, senior manager of strategic marketing at Agere's mobile-terminals division, said the two-chip solution of an analog and a digital baseband processor would lead to a 162mm? silicon footprint saving compared with the company's Sceptre HP mobile processor.

"By separating these cores, applications code development, test and verification are greatly speeded up without in any way compromising the communications processor," said Carter. "It also enables our partners to decouple their development cycles so they can use the same core platform for different handsets."

Agere said the segmentation means each processor can be fully dedicated to its particular function and eliminates complications that often occur when communications and applications processing are combined, such as increased integration and debug times. It also removes the interdependencies that result when domains share processing and memory space, Agere said.

The applications processor is thus able to operate with a clock speed of just 150MHz, yet deliver performance of about 500Mips, Carter said.

Agere is targeting the scalable, modular multicore architecture and software at OEMs and ODMs developing 2.5- and 3G cellular systems, including GPRS, Edge and wideband-CDMA. "Our approach will also allow us to continually integrate additional elements and functionalities into the design. So far, the bulk of the intellectual property for products based on the architecture comes from us, but going forward, we see the proportion of acquired IP increasing."

Carter said the architecture provides a protected protocol stack running from the same external memory as applications, ensuring communications integrity over operators' networks and supporting multimedia applications. "The result is robust building blocks for low-power, high- security designs that users can pick and choose from" without any "compromise on performance," he said.

Handsets based on the Vision architecture can lead to a 150 percent improvement in battery life compared with a single-processor solution, Carter said, but he declined to give actual figures for the power efficiency. "So far, this is just an architecture. Products will follow from selected customers we have been talking with." Silicon is expected in the second quarter and system designs in the third, he said.

The communications processor uses an ARM7 core and the applications processor an ARM9. The architecture supports Symbian OS, Windows Mobile, Palm and Linux OSs. And the company's OptiSuite design and test tools "help manufacturers take their customized handset designs from development into production" faster, said Carter.

- John Walko

EE Times

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