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LTE chips aimed at indoor small-cell base stations

Posted: 18 Jul 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Broadcom? LTE? 4G? small cell? base station?

Broadcom has announced its latest portfolio of chips aimed at the emerging market of small-cell base stations. Geared for residential and enterprise systems, the company said its BCM617XX 3G and 4G LTE chips can compete with chip vendors more established in telecommunications macro cells.

The SoCs claim to deliver data rates up to 300Mb/s, support LTE carrier aggregation and have a digital RF front end. They pack a dual core, quad-threaded Broadcom Zephyr processor that can autonomously configure WiFi, provision the cell and listen to traffic to mitigate interference, noted Broadcom.

Broadcom designed BCM617XX for use indoors, given a significant outdoor presence from competitors such as Texas Instruments and Freescale. Outdoor cells "tend to be slaves to the macro cell in terms of software, timing, feature support and therefore architecture of products," said Greg Fischer, GM of Broadcom's broadband carrier access group. By contrast, small or femto cells have the advantage of being more self-contained in processing and protocols.

"All vendors target small cells, but TI and Freescale also offer and have greater presence in macro cells. Because of software compatibility across base stations of different sizes, TI and Freescale have an advantage over Broadcom," Linley Group analyst Jag Bolaria stated. "Broadcom, however, can boast a more complete product line and greater breadth of complementary products such as WiFi, DSL, PON, Ethernet, the latter are particularly important in residential and small offices."

Targeting the China market, Broadcom included the China ZUC security algorithm/cypher in its chips. It also supports the China-led TD-SCDMA and TDD-LTE standards. "We're evolving a very nice platform for the emerging opportunities in China," Fischer stated.

The chips will ship in Q4 of this year and Broadcom will continue to invest heavily in small cell development. Future use of the unlicensed spectrum in small and macro cells will be a particularly interesting area to watch, Fischer indicated.

"Small cells have been slow to take off. Operators have looked to provide LTE coverage first though macro cells. With coverage in place, small cells help to increase density," Bolaria noted. "Now that more LTE coverage is in place in a few regions (such as South Korea, Japan, USA), we expect an increase in small cell deployment starting towards the end of this year and building up in 2015."

- Jessica Lipsky
??EE Times

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