The future of the cell-phone market can be distilled into one word: multimedia. This fact is evident across the wireless value chain. Consumers want phones with feature-rich content and a reliable connection to the network.
Wireless carriers are upgrading to 3G, highspeed wireless networks to offer content that drives service value and average revenue per user. Handset manufacturers want to address these market needs with advanced, poweroptimized devices at attractive price points.
Manufacturers and carriers turned to wireless chip-set providers to develop sophisticated multimedia-enabled capabilities that will leverage the data delivery capabilities of 3G networks. Chip-set providers have integrated 3G wireless modem capabilities and advanced multimedia functionality on a single chip, all while affording manufacturers and carriers the option to differentiate and customize their products and services to appeal to various consumer groups.
It wasn't easy. It takes swift processing speeds to run the powerful, on-demand multimedia applications and 3G modems. Enhanced wireless 3G multimedia chip sets integrate microprocessors, DSPs, and hardware accelerators for the horsepower to run the complex 3G modem and multimedia algorithms. Housing all of this power in a single chip eliminates costly coprocessors and memory subsystems, reducing bill-of-material costs. With fewer components to test and validate, this fully integrated solution also cuts design time and complexity. These factors significantly improve the bottom line, letting manufacturers quickly respond to the market with sleek, power-optimized phones that can be customized to attract various consumer segments.
These integrated designs serve another critical function for manufacturers, as dedicated hardware accelerators for imaging, video, and graphics significantly boost handset performance. This allows manufacturers to offer multimedia devices with large, highresolution screens showcasing advanced functionality like 4.0-Mpixel camera capability, 30-frame/second (fps) QVGA video-ondemand, 3D graphics delivering up to 100,000 triangles per second, 15-fps QCIF video telephony, and position location services. To unleash these enhanced multimedia engines, integrated single-chip solutions also have been optimized to support the development of advanced applications and content through platforms like BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), Java, and third-party operating systems such as Linux.
Handsets with integrated, multimedia chip sets are the gateway to a new level of services offered by operators. Yet this wireless evolution is only possible with new, high-data-rate networks. Third-generation networks such as CDMA2000 1xEV-DO and WCDMA/UMTS with HSDPA offer broadband data rates and highquality services—beyond anything we've ever seen for wireless— which has really pulled innovative multimedia onto the handsets.
The latest news and sports are being streamed to handsets, generating new demand. GPS services, combined with high-resolution maps and graphics, are more sophisticated. Gamers are eating through data minutes as they download console-quality titles, while CD-quality music and 72-polyphonic ringtones expand the market for audio downloads. On the enterprise side, 3G devices enable business users to increase productivity with e-mail communication and the ability to send and receive large files over the network.
With each subsequent generation of wireless networks, chip-set providers have stepped up with working solutions that balance processing speed with wireless agility. Today's integrated solutions are proving to be all things to all people—consumers, handset manufacturers, and wireless carriers alike. The question really is what will be integrated into a wireless chip set next.