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Monolithic GSM phone IC rolls for low-cost handsets

Posted: 18 Jul 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:David Lammers? Silicon Labs? Si4901? GSM chip?

Silicon Laboratories Inc. has developed a single-chip GSM phone aimed at the ultralow-cost handset market. The Si4901 combines the power-management unit, ARM controller, battery interface and charging circuitry, digital baseband, analog baseband and RF transceiver functionality into a monolithic integrated circuit.

The chip requires only 50 complementary components, mainly passive devices, to complete the bill of materials (BOM) for the modem portion of GSM cell phones. The entire phone BOM could be in the $16 range for phones using the Si4901, the company estimated.

The chip can be used on a 5.3cm2, four-layer PCB rather than the normal six-layer board, which the company claimed is a first for chips aimed at low-cost phones. Also, 2Mbits of SRAM on the Si4901 eliminates the need for external SRAM. An on-chip digitally controlled crystal oscillator helps reduce costs by making it possible to use an external, low-cost crystal resonator instead of a voltage-controlled temperature-compensated crystal oscillator.

Silicon Labs took a system perspective when designing the chip, looking at ways to reduce system cost without sacrificing performance, said Dan Rabinovitsj, a vice president. The chip can be adapted to available software protocol stacks, operating systems and applications frameworks.

The Si4901 is a cost-reduced derivative of a similar product, the Si4905, introduced last year. The Si4901 is sampling now in a 10-by-10mm plastic BGA package. Pricing depends on volumes. An evaluation platform is available now for $5,000.

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