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Chip integrates GPS function into handsets

Posted: 16 Apr 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:GPS services on cellphones? chip with GPS and assisted-GPS processing? GPS service rollout?

Targeting the nascent market for GPS services on cellphones, SiRF Technology Inc. rolled out its latest GPS chipits smallest, lowest-power and most sensitive device to date.

The SiRFStar III GSD3 is the company's first product to put on one CMOS die all the baseband, analog and RF circuitry needed to handle both GPS and assisted-GPS processing. Past devices used separate CMOS baseband and SiGe RF dice placed in a single package. Thanks to the integration, the GSD3t fits in a 4-by-4-by-0.68mm TFBGA package. That compares with 6-by-4mm and 6-by-6mm packages for SiRF's existing devices.

The GSD3t is produced in the same 90nm process technology as some of SiRF's existing chips. The company would not say which of its existing foundries was responsible for the integration.

The chip promises better GPS sensitivity at lower power than SiRF's existing parts. The GSD3t can acquire a signal at -160dBm and track a signal below that level, though the company has yet to measure its tracking limit. Previous parts could acquire a signal at about -158dBm.

The chip consumes less than 50mW in training mode and half that when its full power-management techniques are applied. It can acquire a signal at a rate of 40mW-s. It consumes 1mA in standby mode.

The chip uses software that runs on both the GPS device and on a handset host processor to handle some of the assisted-GPS tasks. It requires about 5MIPS on a typical cellphone ARM processor.

As many as two chip vendors may use the device in unannounced handset reference designs. The chip will sample before June and be in production before year-end.

Major cellular operators are now rolling out GPS services, said Kanwar Chadha, VP of marketing for SiRF. They include Verizon, Sprint/Nextel and Cingular in the United States, Orange and O2 in Europe, and SK Telecom, KDDI and China Mobile in Asia. "Except for Vodafone and providers in Italy, all the big operators have plans or are deploying GPS services, so I think this will be the year for volume shipments of handsets using GPS," he said.

Last quarter, less than 20 percent of SiRF's revenue was for handset chips, software and intellectual property, up from about 15 percent the previous quarter. Chadha said the figure can rise to about a third of SiRF's revenue in 12-18 months.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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