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New wave of collaboration to roll in 4G segment

Posted: 06 Nov 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:consolidation 4G? mobile market? WiMAX?

The mobile broadband chip sector is likely to see more consolidations as the business progresses, based on a study made by Light Reading's Components Insider research unit.

The study suggested consolidation in the 4G chip sector is inevitable, with some 20 vendors now vying for position.

Light Reading is part of United Business Media Ltd, which also publishes EE Times.

"The WiMAX semiconductor market is already very competitive, with multiple vendors developing both baseband and RF devices," said Simon Stanley, research analyst for Components Insider and author of the study.

He added that as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project's (3GPP's) Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology develops and the rollout of WiMAX continues, there will be demand for IC devices to support added frequency bands and a complex mix of frequency, bandwidth and performance.

Although the IEEE802.16 and WiMAX Forum have looked upon wireless broadband data from a different angle compared to 3GPP's, much of the technology used for 3GPP's LTE is similar to that of the mobile WiMAX.

Compact features
Common technologies are the downstream transmission scheme (OFDM) and the use of multiple antenna (MIMO). By making WiMAX baseband and RF components more flexible and functional, vendors have been able to create technology demonstrations for LTE and are making devices that can be easily used for either WiMAX or LTE.

Stanley said vendors embracing both 4G options will reap the benefits, while those that are not competitive in these developments will be swept away. "As the WiMAX rollout continues and LTE deployment starts, the rewards for the successful system and silicon vendors will be significant," he added. "There will also be major consolidation, as those that have failed to respond to these challenges drop out of the market," he noted.

Expected LTE dominance
Stanley said over time, the LTE market is seen to be at least five times the size of the WiMAX market.

Customer premises equipment and handset baseband devices implement the OFDM PHY in hardware or software with DSP cores. Vendors with hardware-based solutions are Fujitsu Ltd, NextWave Wireless Inc., Runcom Technologies Ltd, Sequans Communications and Wavesat Inc.

Wavesat has begun shipping a DSP-based solution, along with Altair International Inc., Comsys Communications & Signal Processing Ltd and Intel Corp.

NXP Semiconductors is developing a DSP-based solution that would back most 2G and 3G networks, as well as WiMAX and LTE. The group from NXP is now part of the STMicroelectronics/Ericsson AB joint venture announced in August 2008.

Most base station baseband solutions are fully programmable using proprietary cores for MAC, PHY and networking functions.

Working toward WiMAX, LTE
Major vendors are DesignArt Networks, picoChip Designs Ltd, Runcom Technologies Ltd, and Wintegra Inc., as well as general-purpose CPU/DSP suppliers like Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. All these firms have made significant investments in production-ready software for WiMAX and most are developing software for LTE.

The report claimed that RF front-end devices need a different skill set and technology. In addition to some baseband vendors, analog specialists Analog Devices Inc., Lime Microsystems, PMC-Sierra Inc. and Sierra Monolithics Inc. have RF ICs for WiMAX and other wireless networks, including LTE.

Some vendors have already addressed this issue by integrating baseband and RF devices on a small module.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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