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NXP steps up wireless business initiatives

Posted: 15 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NXP wireless business? 3G? GPS?

NXP Semiconductors targets to bring clarity to its once-sprawling wireless business strategy under a new wireless business management.

After joining NXP last March from Texas Instruments Inc., Marc Cetto, executive VP and general manager of NXP's business unit for mobile and personal, has made several tough decisions. NXP has already shed its cordless phone business as well as its haphazard attempts to enter the multimedia co-processor market for high-end smart phones.

The company's current efforts are focused on single-chip solutions for "mainstream multimedia phones that require no multimedia co-processors," said Cetto in an interview at the Mobile World Congress.

For "rock-bottom GSM to 3G handsets," Cetto said NXP offers single-chip cellular phone devices integrated with RF, baseband and a power management unit.

NXP has also prioritized its connectivity products. NXP "took a pause with Wi-Fi and TV-on-mobile," said Cetto. Instead, the company's engineering resources are now directed at Bluetooth, GPS, USB and FM, all of which NXP views as having a high attach rate for mainstream mobile handsets. As for NFC and UWB, Cetto said, "they are more long term."

LTE focus
When he joined NXP, Cetto said he recognized its R&D spending in the wireless business was only half of TI's or Qualcomm's budgets.

Cetto laid out three new priorities: more aggressive development in cellular systems; a focus on mainstream multimedia features; and connectivity technologies with higher attach rates.

Of the three, NXP has placed its biggest bet on the development of a Long Term Evolution (LTE) modem. NXP is demonstrating at the Mobile World Congress a multimode, programmable LTE modem that will be the basis of NXP's software-defined radio system.

Looking back, Cetto said NXP wasn't the first to offer a 3G modem. "Even with HSDPA, we were later than others," he noted. "But with LTE, we hope to be a part of the first group."

NXP sees LTE as revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, modem technology. "The switch from narrow band to wideband requires a complete rearchitecture of DSP" technology. Further, LTE demands solutions for multimode and multiband frequencies for evolving mobile standards.

Work underway
While NXP's embedded vector processor (EVP) is a software-programmable platform for basebands, NXP's plan for multiple radios needed in future handsets remains a question.

Sequoia Communications, for example, already offers a multimode transceiver that has been verified to support HSUPA, TD-SCDMA, S-Band and GMR satellite specifications.

Sequoia is demonstrating here a flexible radio with an architecture that allows the integration of multiple modes and bands without adding chip area, according to the company.

While calling the radio chip "complementary" to NXP's EVP, Sequoia's CEO Dave Shepard added, "Without a multiple radio solution, EVP will only destroyon a system levelits own advantage of being multimode."

Without elaborating, NXP's Cetto said significant development efforts are underway on RF CMOS development. The effort includes a combined team of NXP's own RF expertsabout 150 engineersand an equivalent team at Silicon Laboratories. NXP acquired the Silicon Labs' cellular communications business a year ago.

In late 2007, NXP also acquired GloNav Inc., a U.S.-based fabless semiconductor company developing single-chip devices for GPS. Cetto said NXP has its own GPS development program, but through GloNav, a 20-year-old developer of the GPS technology, "we are learning what we thought we knew but we didn't."

Noting that the industry is expecting a 75-percent attach rate for GPS over the next five years, Cetto added, "For us, that means GPS will have a 100-percent attach rate for feature and high-end phones. That gives us an incentive to integrate GPS in a baseband. We are already working on it."

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times




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