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CEVA eyes brilliant future in DSP

Posted: 25 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cellular solutions? DSP? baseband chips?

CEVA has announced that NXP was adopting its CEVA-Teak DSP core for its ultalow-cost cellular solutions. The move isn't too surprising. After StarCore shut down and LSI Logic sold its DSP operations to ASIC house Verisillicon, CEVA was left as the only pure-play DSP licensor!at least as far as "general-purpose" DSPs are concerned. There are still many companies licensing specialized DSP cores (3Plus1 is one good example), but these competitors are generally much smaller than CEVA. This is particularly true in the cellular baseband market, where CEVA has a 53 percent market share. These days, CEVA mainly competes with chip companies like TI that have their own in-house DSP architectures.

Recent events indicate that CEVA is gaining ground on these competitors. For example, leading handset maker Nokia no longer relies exclusively on TI for baseband chips. Instead, the company has partnerships with Broadcom and STMicroelectronics!both of whom are CEVA licensees. Similarly, number two handset maker Samsung is now using NXP's single-chip solution for its ultralow-cost handsets!and NXP is also a CEVA licensee.

Behind these events lies an important trend: Phone manufacturers are looking to multi-source their baseband chips instead of relying on one vendor. Having multiple vendors gives them more design flexibility and more power to negotiate lower prices. This push for multi-sourcing gives CEVA an important advantage over its rivals: Since multiple vendors use CEVA cores, software written for CEVA cores can easily be ported to chips from multiple vendors. Code written for proprietary architectures such as TI's or Qualcomm's cannot be ported so easily, making it painful to switch vendors.

This is hardly a prediction of doom for vendors like TI and Qualcomm. For one thing, development of cutting-edge handsets still requires a close relationship between the handset vendor and the chip vendor!and only industry leaders like TI and Qualcomm have the resources it takes to make these projects a success. However, it doesn't make sense for handset makers to have exclusive relationships in the ultralow-cost sector. In this market, CEVA appears to be gaining the advantage.

- Kenton Williston
DSP DesignLine

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