The next-generation network rollouts have started, and they're certainly not synonymous as far as standards and technologies go. Everyone from device manufacturers to carriers needs to ensure that service losses and poor quality don't increase. TTPCom Ltd. (www.ttpcom.com) and the Semiconductor Company of Matsushita Electric Industrial (MEI) Co. (www.matsushita.com) have already been working on this problem. In fact, they've achieved functional first silicon of a Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) transceiver design.
This design is based on TTPCom technology. The TTPCom reference design that was delivered to MEI was optimized to meet their specific requirements for a 3GPP-only transceiver. For its part, MEI boasts a range of RFICs for 2.5G and 3G systems. These devices are designed to allow handset partners to implement these technologies with minimal design overhead. The first devices from this partnership have been evaluated and shown to meet the specifications set for 3GPP. Now, the full system evaluation of this device is underway at TTPCom's testing facilities. First production samples are expected in the second half of this year.
The companies aren't stopping there, however. TTPCom and MEI are currently embarking on dual 3G/GSM RFICs. These RFICs will enable handsets that are capable of operating with 2G/2.5G and 3G networks. As a result, subscribers should gain seamless access to different networks as the world's cellular operators roll out 3G services. This capability could be vital to the successful introduction of 3G services. After all, it is unlikely that today's subscribers will be prepared to tolerate any loss of service when they move to areas only covered by 2G and 2.5G systems. The first silicon of this RFIC is expected in mid-2003.
According to Richard Fry, TTPCom's Sales and Marketing Director, the work being done by the two companies grows even more vital in the face of next-generation applications, like wireless entertainment. As he puts it, "The work that we're doing with MEI is enabling higher-performance, lower-cost, dual-mode 3G/GSM terminals to get to market more quickly. This dual-mode functionality is essential and, in particular applications, must be able to work seamlessly across both networks. A game player doesn't want to lose his or her place just because the cell phone is handing over from a GSM to a 3G network. Some aspects of mobile entertainment, such as moving video, will require a 3G network to run effectively. Here, the terminals will need to be competitively priced to be successful."