Wireless Systems Design

CDMA-Handset Competition Heats Up

The variety of standards and the industry's recent financial turmoil have left most handset manufacturers with a limited number of solutions and providers. This situation has resulted in a lack of healthy competition and product diversity. Unfortunately, the effects of this problem ripple out across the whole industry. When products don't flaunt variety and new features, consumers aren't prompted to buy handsets. The result is a stalled network upgrade and a continued manufacturing-profit slump. To amend this situation, Texas Instruments (www.ti.com) and STMicroelectronics (www.st.com) recently announced their entry into the CDMA market. At the same time, the two companies embarked upon a joint development with Nokia.

The companies' plan is to stimulate an open environment for CDMA handsets. Texas Instruments and STMicro-electronics will offer integrated circuits (ICs) that are based on a technology that they developed jointly with Nokia. Together, the ICs and this new technology comprise standard CDMA chip sets. The technology has already been incorporated into the Nokia-specific chip set that is used in its cdma2000 1X phones (see figure). Future generations of this technology will be used in Nokia-specific chip sets for 1x Evolution for Data and Voice (1xEV-DV) handsets.

Of course, this CDMA breakthrough also relies heavily on the expertise of TI and ST. To build this IC portfolio, they united elements of their respective technologies. The resulting ICs form CDMA chip sets that target multiple market segments. Because they boast open hardware interfaces, the ICs also present handset manufacturers with more flexibility and choices. Examples include interfaces to radio-frequency (RF) subsystems and application processors. Flexibility also is gained through an open application programming interface (API). This API plans to facilitate the customization of products. It also will work to accelerate the proliferation of easily portable applications onto this platform.

Compared to similar offerings, the new CDMA chip sets promise to provide reduced bill-of-materials (BOM) cost, low-power consumption for both standby and talk times, and a high level of supplier expertise. As stated, the initial CDMA chip set targets the cdma2000 1X standard. Handset manufacturers also should gain a time-to-market advantage for future cdma2000 1xEV-DV handsets, however. The partnering companies have concrete plans to put out the industry's first complete chip set for that market.

The CDMA chip-set solutions will include an analog-baseband/power-management chip, a digital-baseband chip, associated protocol software, RF chips, and reference designs. In addition to the CDMA chip-set solutions, TI and ST will make available their own complementary wireless technologies, including application processors that support the OMAP standard and wireless-LAN, Bluetooth, and GPS location technology. ST also offers a Flash-memory product option. ST and TI will market the chip-set integrated circuits to handset manufacturers worldwide for cdma2000 1X and 1xEV-DV mobile-Internet handsets. As for the cdma2000 1X chip set, qualified samples are expected to be available next quarter.

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