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CDMA phone eyes India's low-tier mobile market

Posted: 16 Nov 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LG Electronics? RD3330? Rangeela? CDMA? cellular phone?

LG Electronics' RD3330 CDMA phone for Indian cellular markets keeps component count and feature set to a minimum to meet aggressive production cost targets. Aside from sporting a color LCD, the RD3330 is a fairly bare-bones affair that still comfortably handles the killer application for the cellphone!voice calling.

LG Electronics' RD3330 CDMA phone

The 'Rangeela' CDMA phone
(Click image to view teardown diagram)

As cellular-phone service penetration rates have increased to the point of saturation in many places, the focus turns to low-subscriber-rate countries for continued growth. The GSM Association (GSMA) has made a quite-public push for low-cost handsets so as to stimulate demand in the unserved and underserved markets around the world. In these regions, cost is king, and MP3-playing, picture-taking, media powerhouse handsets are out of the question for most.

While GSM may be the dominant global wireless standard, it is not the only protocol used in developing countries; CDMA enjoys a relatively good footprint in many emerging cellular markets. Thus, the low-cost terminal challenge that GSMA has issued extends in quieter fashion to the CDMA world as well.

The LG RD3330, also known as the Rangeela, is a candy bar cellphone featuring a 65,536-color supertwisted-nematic (STN) display, messaging, 2,000-name phone book, 99 speed dials, paging, airplane mode, caller ID and rhythmic lighting for incoming calls. The design supports English and Hindi menus and Hindi SMS, and has personal management features such as an alarm, converter, to-do list, memo and clock.

Cost reduction begins with the chips, and for CDMA that means Qualcomm. Via Telecom and Texas Instruments have both put forth efforts to create entry-level CDMA chipsets, but the battle has been tough. In our experience, Qualcomm has thus far kept the competition largely at bay. While competitive dimensions to CDMA chipset production may be blunted, marketplace conditions form a competitive dimension all to themselves. Quite simply, Qualcomm cannot hope to serve entry-level markets in competition with GSM by selling grossly overpriced components. Lower-cost solutions are a must if it wishes to participate in the low end.

And the RD3330 illustrates one dimension to Qualcomm's CDMA platform offerings for low-tier handsets, a strategy I call "recycle, reuse, reduce." The first principle!reuse of existing platforms leveraging the amortization of sunk design costs!is demonstrated here by the MSM6000-based solution of the Rangeela.

The phone uses four core chips from Qualcomm: the MSM6000 baseband, RFR6122 receiver, RFT6122 transmitter and PM6610 power-management chip. This platform has been around for some time, so there is nothing particularly groundbreaking there!rather, it is the reuse of the preexisting chipset that saves money. Design costs are fully amortized, and production costs fully wrung out. Through reuse, that which was once expensive is now (relatively) cheap.

Other components in the Rangeela design include a combo memory from Spansion (the S71PL064JB0), which provides 8Mbytes of NOR flash along with 4Mbytes of PSRAM. Skyworks' single-band SKY77162 RF power amplifier completes the transmit stage. These main components!along with the small-scale ICs, passives and frequency control devices that round out the component set!all fit comfortably on a single side of the RD3330's PCB. Only the keypad contacts, keypad backlights and a smattering of passive components are found on the less-populated front side.

The antenna is based on a planar inverted f-antenna technology, so manufacture is a simple stamped metal plate on a plastic carrier. The whole assembly resides inside the phone's two-piece main enclosure (a separate battery cover adds a third piece of molded plastic). The bar-format design is another cost saver, simplifying housing construction and final assembly compared with a slide or flip construction.

By avoiding the more expensive active-matrix LCD technology and selecting passive-matrix color STN, LG has added $3 to $4 to production costs over a monochrome design while improving the phone's "curb appeal."

On the final approach to low cost, "reduce," a tour of Qualcomm's Website, hints at what's next. The forthcoming QSC60x0 family of devices reduces to one chip almost all the functions in the four-chip "reuse" solution of the RD3330.

Total cost of production for the RD3330 is in the $45 range, with certain factors such as the color LCD keeping the design from being bottom-of-the-barrel cheap. While more expensive than the lowest of the GSM alternatives, the design nonetheless illustrates Qualcomm's willingness to serve the low-tier market.

- David Carey
President, Portelligent

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