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Software-defined modems cut LTE handset dev't time

Posted: 25 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:software-defined modem? LTE? W-CDMA? processor?

Cognovo has provided some details of its software-defined modem (SDM) platform, including that a multimode modem implementation should occupy just 6mm? in a leading-edge process.

The startup was formed by the four founders of TTPCom, a developer of protocol stacks for mobile communications that rose to prominence in the 1990s. Their new venture is likely to come into competition with Icera Inc., founded in 2002, which also offers software modems to run on a dedicated processor engine.

The Cognovo SDM platform comprises the Modem Compute Engine; a licensable processor subsystem, the SDM-OS and a fully integrated development suite. The SDM platform is based on the Ardbeg vector signal processor technology spun out from ARM.

The SDM platform is under evaluation at some handset OEMs and is now based on the Optimode DSP platform developed by ARM in Belgium by a team that is now part of Cognovo. The technology is expected to appear in handsets during 2012.

Cognovo claimed that using the SDM platform can cut development times can be reduced by 9 to 12 months compared with a hardware-based modem design approach. In addition, designs can remain flexible closer to deployment. The company also claims to have overcome problems of power consumption associated with software-based modems, which have restricted the commercial deployment of SDR to predominately military and infrastructure applications.

The Cognovo SDM platform is suitable for handsets and portable devices capable of LTE Category 4 data transmission at 150Mbit/s but also scales to support multimode operation with other standards,. A single-engine supporting W-CDMA, HSPA, HSPA+, LTE and WiMAX enables a multimode baseband IC to be realized in a die area of less than 6mm? in 32nm geometrysignificantly smaller than conventional modem ICs. Cognovo has developed a C compiler and a system design toolkit to support the architecture.

"Our platform for LTE handsets is a ground-up design, not just a re-targeting of a legacy product; and the MCE is more than just a processor, it's a platform solution for SDM," said Gordon Aspin, CEO of Cognovo, in a statement.

"The software and system support that Cognovo has brought to the SDM platform complements the many years of development by ARM of the Ardbeg vector signal processor," said Warren East, CEO of ARM, in the same statement. "We are delighted with the rapid progress made by the Cognovo team and look forward to seeing end products utilizing the platform to enhance the user mobile experience."

"The software-defined radio concept has been around for a while, but with the move to HSPA and LTE a more flexible approach is becoming essential. Cognovo's combination of disruptive processor technology with a set of supporting software and tools promises to enable handset makers to bring products to market much faster than before and with significant cost savings in the modem; the most critical part of a wireless terminal," said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, in the same statement.

In the same statement Pekka Sarlund, a veteran of the wireless industry, said: "Software Defined Radio has been a long time coming and is only now becoming competitive with conventional techniques. The Cognovo platform has addressed all the concerns of OEMs and I expect their techniques to change the way companies design handsets over the next few years."

- Peter Clarke
EE Times

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