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MIPS set on cracking 3.5G/4G handset market

Posted: 12 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IP core? processor? 4G? handset market?

The battle over IP processor cores in 3.5G and 4G handsets has only begunat least in the minds of MIPS Technologies executives.

They may be facing steep odds, especially in light of the fact that not a single MIPS core has yet appeared in a mobile handset available on the market. But the world's second largest IP processor company is deadly serious, and the company may be on its way to opening a few doors.

MIPS's first step is to Barcelona, attending the Mobile World Congress for the first time, where the company intends to challenge the industry's prevailing pre-conception that ARM is for mobile handsets, and MIPS is confined to digital consumer devices.

"We hope to demonstrate to the industry [operators, chip suppliers and mobile handset manufacturers included] what's possible with MIPS, which has already deeply penetrated the 3.5G and 4G mobile infrastructure," said Art Swift, vice president of marketing at MIPS.

The company hopes to extend its processor IPs to both baseband and multimedia co-processor chips inside future mobile handsets.

The key word here is "future."

MIPS' Swift, noting that 4G protocols are more similar to Wi-Fi than 3G, explained that MIPS is potentially at an opportune moment to change the game, "by leveraging MIPS' proven Wi-Fi expertise directly for 4G."

When Swift talked to EE Times last fall about the company's ambitions in the cell phone market, details were sketchy and many industry observers remained skeptical.

MIPS in baseband processors
But the company now believes it has a good case for MIPS in 3.5G and 4G handsets, especially now that key software stacks and IPs necessary for 3.5G and 4G phones are becoming widely available for those in MIPS' ecosystem or "Team MIPS" in the parlance of MIPS' new CEO Sandeep Vij.

First, MIPS, working together with Intrinsyc Software International, is porting Intrinsyc's 3.5G telephony software stacks to the MIPS architecture. Swift said the two companies are demonstrating 3.5G voice calls with audio and video playback on a MIPS-based Android platform at the Mobile World Congress.

Second, MIPS is announcing a partnership with SySDSoft to enable LTE on the MIPS architecture. By working with SySDSoft, now a new member of the MIPS Alliance Program, to develop an optimized MIPS32 LTE protocol stack, MIPS hopes to give MIPS licensees an opportunity to leverage the LTE stack "across the entire range of MIPS processor cores." Initial results of the SySDSoft collaborations will be shared in Barcelona, promised Swift.

Clearly, some MIPS licensees are already rolling out WiMAX chipsets and LTE handset and base station designs. Wintegra, Cavium and Altair are among those MIPS licensees already using MIPS cores in their 4G products.

MIPS' partnering with SySDSoft, however, is expected to accelerate time to market and a broader acceptance of MIPS in WiMAX and LTE products among MIPS licensees. Several MIPS-based WiMAX and LET demonstrations are planned at Mobile World Congress, according to Swift, who refrained from specifying vendors' names.

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