Monday, February 25, 2013

Broadcom, Maxim, Freescale and TI increase focus on small cells at Mobile World Congress

Small cells and heterogeneous networks continue to be hot topics at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC), which kicked off today in Barcelona. We are seeing announcements from several chip vendors who are expanding their offerings in this space, with an increased focus on supporting wireless operator plans to ramp up deployment for LTE metro, enterprise and residential applications.

Broadcom has announced that they are sampling a new family of dual-mode 3G/LTE SoCs, the BCM617xx series. The BCM617xx consist of three products, the BCM61760 is designed for high capacity metro cells, the BCM61750 for enterprise small cells, and the BCM61730 for residential.

Greg Fischer, Broadcom’s VP and GM for Broadband Carrier Access, says that the BCM61760 can support 100 to 200 simultaneous LTE users, and 32 to 64 for 3G, depending on the combination of radio access technologies that an operator employs. The BCM61730 can support 8 to 16 users in a residential setting.

In LTE mode, the BCM617xx enables carrier aggregation, for a maximum total of 40MHz of channel bandwidth. The SoCs support LTE CAT-4, with 150Mbs Down Link (DL) and 50Mbps Up Link (UL) data rates, and 128 active users, or 3G data rates of 42Mbps DL and 11Mbps UL, with 32 simultaneous users. Both Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD) and Time Division Duplexing (TDD) modes are supported in the BCM61750 and BCM61760.

Broadcom has partnered with Radisys to support their 4G Trillium LTE TOTAL eNodeB software on the new 4G LTE small cell modems. The software integration provides a pre-integrated solution for implementing Radio Resource Management (RRM), Self-Organizing Network (SON), Operations/Administration and Maintenance (OAM) and 3GPP-compliant protocol stacks.

For the existing 3G WCDMA residential market, Broadcom is also introducing the BCM6163, which integrates the digital base band processor and RF transceiver into a single SoC. The BCM6163 provides HSPA data rates at up to 21.6 Mbps. Broadcom is planning volume production for the BCM61630 later in the first-half of 2013.

Eric Hayes, Broadcom VP of Marketing for Processor and Wireless Infrastructure, says that the company has also developed a multi-mode small cell platform that leverages the latest 28nm processors from their former NetLogic group, which will enable customers to build more complex systems for Multiple Radio Access Technology (multi-RAT) networks. . At MWC, Broadcom is demonstrating a combined 3G/4G/"5G" solution, the "5G" being Broadcom's marketing label for IEEE 802.11ac WiFi, which operates in the 5 GHz band. Hayes says that the XLP-208 multicore processor can manage all radios and data traffic, and provides scalablity for delivering edge-of-network revenue-generating services, such as content caching, ad insertion, as well as supporting traffic management for tuning backhaul links. Broadcom says that the development platform includes Broadcom’s complete portfolio of backhaul devices for optimized traffic management, including x-DSL, x-PON and wireless.Broadcom is sampling the platform now, and is planning to support volume production in Q2.

Maxim Integrated is also targeting the multi-mode 3G/LTE small cell market, with the announcement of the MAX2580, a single-chip multistandard "RF to Bits" small cell radio transceiver. Damian Anzaldo, Communications Segment Manager at Maxim, says that the transceiver supports WCDMA and all LTE bands from Band 1 to Band 41, with selectable channel bandwidths from 1.4MHz to 20MHz in both FDD and TDD modes, providing a 2X2 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) RF front-end for channel bandwidths from 1.4 to 20 MHz.

The MAX2580 integrates fractional-N frequency synthesizers, high-speed data converters, decimation, interpolation and channel selection filters, along with a JESD207 standard data interface for connection to baseband processors. Maxim partnered with Freescale Semiconductor to construct a 1 Watt LTE/3G small cell base station for demonstration at MWC. The demo small cell combines a Freescale BSC9132 base station SoC card with a MAX2580 RF transceiver card, RF power amplifiers, and network management cards. The companies designed the small cell in a passively cooled enclosure that weighs 6.8kg.

Competing with Broadcom's combo 3G/LTE announcement, the Maxim-Freescale design supports LTE-FDD/TDD and HSPA+ users simultaneously, for a single LTE sector of up to 20MHz. The BSC9132 can process 64 simultaneous users with up to 150Mbps DL and  75Mbps UL rates, and 42Mbps DL with 11.5Mbps UL in 5MHz HSPA+ mode.

While not announcing any new SoCs at MWC, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) is introducing two new software packages targeting small cell applications for their previously introduced KeyStone-based base station on a chip processors, the TMS320TCI6612, 6614 and 6636.

The first software package is for the small cell Physical (PHY) layer, in single simultaneous dual-mode LTE and WCDMA applications. TI has pre-integrated the PHY software with L2/L3 software stacks, and performed production testing with commercially available user equipment. The software enables users to differentiate their products by incorporating their own proprietary DSP algorithms. Though optimized for small cells, TI's strategic marketing manager Debbie Greenstreet says that the package is scalable to macro base stations.

For a complete small cell application, TI's PHY package integrates with their second software offering, the transport package. The transport package can be used for wireless applications, and also separately for other network-oriented applications. TI is including the transport software as part of their Multicore Software Developer Kit (MCSDK) for Keystone processors. The transport library takes advantage of the SoCs Security, Packet, and Radio Acceleration Pacs. TI’s Base Station SoftwarePac for small cells will be available in the first half of 2013, while the transport software package is available now.

TI is also announcing that ZTE Corporation is using KeyStone SoCs for its small cell base station products. ZTE is building base stations with Software-Defined Radios (SDR), using TI’s KeyStone’s bitrate co-processor (BCP) AccelerationPac to concurrently process UMTS and LTE packets for simultaneous dual-mode small cell products.

Sub10 Systems, a UK-based designer of millimeter-wave wireless backhaul products, is using TI’s KeyStone-based TMS320C6678 in their Liberator V100, a 100Mbps wireless Ethernet bridge that operate as a data link in the 60GHz band.

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