Global Sources
EE Times-Asia
Stay in touch with EE Times Asia
EE Times-Asia > EDA/IP

Analysis: How CEVA defies economic crunch

Posted: 09 Jun 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:intellectual property? DSP? IP core? baseband?

Despite the current economic downturn, DSP core intellectual property supplier, CEVA Inc. has a story with a happy!and surprising!ending.

When Gideon Wertheizer, CEVA's CEO, came to New York this week to ring the closing bell at Nasdaq to celebrate the company's 10th year anniversary, he talked about CEVA's 21.6 percent revenue growth in 2008, at a time when worldwide semiconductor revenue declined by 5.4 percent. During the same period, the revenue of the semiconductor IP market did increase, but only at 5.5 percent.

If this doesn't cheer up CEVA's investors, or anyone looking for upbeat news, what will?

Here are two headline items laid out by CEVA: 1) CEVA's business has been recession-proof.; 2) CEVA's DSP cores are designed into four of top five handset OEMs today.

But caution.

Whether such accomplishments were achieved by the company's grand design or serendipity is still a matter of debate. Further, how much longer CEVA's current good fortune will last is another good question, especially when 4G starts to roll out in a big way on the competitive handset market.

Nevertheless, nobody argues that CEVA has quietly expanded its market share over the last two years against the competition's DSP cores used in different baseband processors.

Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, observed, "Infineon has an 18 percent market share (in cell phone baseband shipments for 2008) and the company uses only CEVA cores. Infineon, and thereby CEVA, are clearly #3 in the market after Texas Instruments and Qualcomm."

He added, "Moreover, CEVA is also in all of ST-Ericsson's 3G basebands, so their claim to soon have 25 percent unit market share is not unreasonable. Of course, CEVA is in a myriad of 2G basebands from a number of other vendors, too."

Mobile market shift
The current situation contrasts starkly with CEVA only a few years ago, when the company had "zero suppliers" to Nokia's sockets, in Wertheizer's own admission.

Much of CEVA's reversal of fortune stems from the dramatic shift in the mobile handset market since then. CEVA's Wertheizer is the first to acknowledge that his company has greatly benefited from Nokia's decision!two years ago!to source their handset ICs from multiple semiconductor suppliers on the open market. Nokia gave up its internal custom-chip development program and parted ways with its long-time ASIC partners!Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics. As a result, Infineon Technologies, Broadcom, and ST, respectively, had their own baseband chips designed into Nokia's GPRS, Edge and 3G handsets in 2009.

It just so happened that all these chip suppliers were already using CEVA's DSP cores in their baseband processors. As Nokia began ramping up handset production, "We started collecting a market share," Wertheizer said.

Mobile phone suppliers today have to deal with a dizzying array of basebands!ranging from 2G, 2.5G to 3G, HSPA, HSDPA and 4G. It's no longer sustainable for Nokia "to keep internally developing their own chips, adding their own software, and testing them," observed CEVA's CEO.

Nokia is not alone. Many leading handset companies are similarly dependent on "a variety of chip suppliers" for baseband processors, said Wertheizer. "Each semiconductor company has its own specialization," for a different baseband, he added.

CEVA has also profited from TI's recent decision to exit the merchant baseband processor market.

Forward Concepts' Strauss noted, "Since TI's market share will go to zero by 2012 (by their own admission), that's likely to move CEVA up to the #2 baseband spot." He also added, "Nokia is currently shipping a number of 2G cellphones that employ CEVA-integrated basebands from Infineon and Via Telecom, rather than those from TI."

TI will, however, continue shipping 3G basebands to Nokia, at least through 2011, he noted.

While agreeing that the rapidly changing mobile handset landscape has worked in CEVA's favor, Jeff Bier, president of Berkeley Design Technology, Inc. (BDTI), noted that "to say CEVA is the biggest beneficiary is an overstatement."

Bier said that Qualcomm, for example, has been making steady inroads in the baseband market, at a time when traditional DSP power houses such as TI or Analog Devices have all bowed out, calling it highly commoditized. Qualcomm continues to design and make its internally developed baseband and application processors. Further, Bier added, "Qualcomm is using its own DSP, not that of CEVA."

1???2???3?Next Page?Last Page

Article Comments - Analysis: How CEVA defies economic c...
*? You can enter [0] more charecters.
*Verify code:


Visit Asia Webinars to learn about the latest in technology and get practical design tips.

Back to Top