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Freescale targets two-way radio, smart meters

Posted: 10 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SoC? radios? smart meters ?

Freescale Semiconductor Inc. was spun off from Motorola in 2004 and it was thought that the new company would be prohibited from making products for cellular phone handsets. Instead, Freescale's Cellular Products Group brought most of the baseband IP from Motorola and hired cellular software gurus to take the place of those who stayed on with Motorola.

In early 2009, Freescale announced it was getting out of the cellular platform business. It began targeting wireless applications requiring long battery life at low cost. Now, the Cellular Products division is making SoCs aimed at two-way radios and smart meters, and it is finalizing the IP for software-configurable multi-mode cellular basebands.

"We believe that the IP we developed for our original Cellular Products Group has unique features that make it more flexible than competing solutions," said David Patterson, VP and general manager, cellular products division, Freescale.

Freescale's Cellular Products division, which supports Motorola's and RIM's "push to talk" phones in big markets like Nextel, is focusing its baseband and RF expertise in 2010 and beyond at SoCs. Separate baseband IP efforts dubbed "Ruby" and "Amber," along with its extensive IP for making all-CMOS radio transceivers in the range of 50MHz to 2.6GHz using OFDM, enable Freescale to produce specialized SoCs for two-way radios, wireless medical monitors, smart meters and multi-mode handsets.

Freescale's Ruby technology harnesses a vector processing architecture that the company claims can be scaled to support multiple communication protocol requirements. Ruby enables very low-power SoCs for products ranging from handsets to base stations, according to Freescale. For instance, for a two-way radio or a GSM handset you need two Arithmetic Units (AU), while a 3G or TD-SCDMA handset requires 8 or 16 AUs, an LTE handset will require 16 AUs, and a femto or pico-cells might require 16 or 32 AUs, respectively, while a full base station might need 32 or 64 AUs.

Freescale has partnered with Etherstack Ltd to market its two-way radio SoC into the growing digital mobile radio market. Freescale claims that its SoC eliminates many discrete parts so that Etherstack's reference design that used to require a 12-layer PCB can now fit on a four-layer PCB.

The second SoC being developed by Freescale will be specialized for smart meters where both wireless and Power Line Communication standards exist, integrating Ruby and the RF transceivers. Smart Meter manufacturers will enjoy the flexibility to update Ruby's firmware as meter standards evolve in the U.S., Europe and China.

Freescale's other major communication IP technology required for handset basebands, called "Amber," is the channel encoding and decoding engine for multi-mode basebands that support 2G, 3G, TD-SCDMA, LTE and both single- and MIMO antenna configurations. By integrating Ruby and Amber, handset makers can create a custom or semi-custom baseband SoC that handles 2G and 3G today, but will also work in future LTE-networks.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

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