When Your Phone Is a Chip
When Your Phone Is a Chip
By: David Geer
Nov. 25, 2003 12:54 PM
Industry players Wavecom and Intel have successfully entered the cellphone market with solutions-based, all-in-one chipset modules. These modules are waltzing OEMs over the line into the world of cellular phones.
Wavecom Enables Turnkey Cellphone Business
These companies would otherwise have to approach a dozen or more organizations for licensing of essential IP for GSM and get those licenses within the typical two-year time frame. Wavecom offers a CDMA module as well. Everything is included in the price of the modules. Wavecom's approach circumvents individual license negotiations for OEMs like Gateway, HP, and Handspring that are entering the wireless space without these relationships.
With Wavecom's MUSE Platform Open MMI (Man Machine Interface), customers can develop unique user interfaces. "Developing MMI used to take a huge team of resources, 20-30 people working on MMI development. We now offer that as part of our module package," says David McCartney, vice president of marketing and business development, Wavecom. Wavecom brings its own GPRS protocol stack, the Wavecom stack. "You don't have to have half a million dollars up front and a dollar a unit included in the price [to get a GPRS stack or licensing]," says McCartney. Wavecom has a license from Sun to include J2ME in its WISMO chipset module's software packaging.
Wavecom has developed its own baseband to control new baseband features like AMR technology (Adaptive Multi-Rate) for U.S.-based GSM networks and EDGE phones.
Wavecom is onboard to provide Legend, China's largest PC manufacturer, with modules for its new phones, which are forthcoming.
Wavecom acquires all necessary certifications for its CDMA and GSM modules. It has a team that works exclusively on carrier relations, FCC activities, and related certification matters. "We know how to take a product, get it certified and get it into revenue provisioning," says McCartney.
Wavecom modules are precertified with the carriers.
Intel Cellphone Market Buy-in
With Intel's hefty flash memory, the code that used to rest in external SRAM is now on the chip for quick access. (This code includes communications code for the DSP, a real-time OS, and applications.) Voice and data applications function quickly without conflicting with each other.
It's a Manitoba Market
You can put a Java Virtual Machine in there too. "If you've played with any of the phones out there today that use GPRS, the loading of a Java app is painfully slow. It takes 12-15 seconds sometimes. Having these things close to the processor means they load up quickly and they run quickly. You really improve the user experience," says Rogers.
The Intel Micro Signal Architecture for its DSP runs at 104MHz. The DSP has 512KB of flash and some additional SRAM dedicated to the DSP. One of the biggest problems folks have when they have an applications processor and a communications processor all on one chip is that these usually have to fight for control of a single memory bus that goes out to the memory. The PXA800F alleviates some of that because now you've got all your communications code there on the chip. You don't have to go out over that shared bus and fight for bandwidth, says Rogers. The module also comes with a great number of peripherals, serial ports, and LCD controllers. Putting everything on one chip saves on design complexity. You have room for other things.
Why Is Intel Entering This Market?
What Does Intel Have Planned for the Future?
"Samsung is debuting the i600 this fall with Intel technology. Motorola was one of the first to adopt our stacked chips, where we stack the memory and a processor in one small package," says Rogers. That's the A760, a Linux-based phone. Several others are debuting in Asia and Europe. "The world's first 3G phone from NEC had our original strong arm processor under the hood," says Rogers.
Intel can sell 400,000 units a year and move software developers toward new technologies like fingerprint recognition on cellphones and other applications, says Miller.
We're already starting to see carriers hire companies to develop their own branded handsets, and with the addition of so many new players, this trend will only increase. With so many new companies coming into business with similar technical capabilities (dictated by the underlying technology), we can expect to see some real innovation in terms of design and other market differentiation. Interesting times are ahead.
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