Freescale touts single-architecture SoCs for macro and small cells

BARCELONA, Spain--Freescale Semiconductor is expanding its QorIQ Qonverge base station-on-chip portfolio (SoC) architecture that it introduced for small cells at last year's Mobile World Congress with a macro cell solution called the QorIQ Qonverge 4860.

The 4860 offers broad multi-mode capability and is also the first device from Freestyle that supports Release 10 LTE Advanced. The company said it will begin sampling the 4860 next quarter, enabling its customers to begin shipping commercial products in 2Q13.

Scott Aylor, general manager of Freescale's wireless access division, said the one-year time to market for commercial products after sampling is enabled because Freescale's existing customers can take their previous investment in Freescale DSPs and microprocessors and fold that into the 4860 because they are all source-code compatible. "So the software that people are writing and have written for their existing network is portable to this particular application," said Aylor.

The QorIQ Qonverge family of products employs a common architecture for femtocell to macrocell applications, providing vertical and horizontal scalability. "We want to have the same scalable architecture that leverages the common hardware and software platform all the way up and down the chain," said Aylor.

All of Freescale's small-cell products run on a single chip, but the 4860 represents the first time that the company has been able to get to macro-type performance on a single device, said Aylor. He added Freescale's SoC design enables a four times reduction in the total bill of materials and provides intelligent load balancing and power management.

The 4860 is also suited to Cloud RAN deployments. Aylor said an operator might have a farm of 4860s in one centralized location, which would allow aggregation of baseband resources into a single location for use in load balancing. That is, an operator could pool the baseband resources and share them to temporarily allocate extra capacity to a site that needs it during peak traffic loading events.

Because the 4860 integrates microprocessors and digital signal processors into one device, scaling is accomplished via the addition of more devices rather than the complex hardware and software partitioning that would be required if an operator tried to create a farm of only microchip or DSP solutions.

In August 2011, Freescale started sampling the first chips in its SoC baseband platform that were slated to become a key part of Alcatel-Lucent's (NYSE:ALU) small-cell LightRadio technology. The SoC design allow placement of the base station much closer to the antenna, enabling creation of a base station in a very small footprint.

Freescale introduced its QorIQ Qonverge family of SoCs in Barcelona last year, with the first products being the QorIQ Qonverge PSC9132 for picocells and PSC9130/31 SoCs for femtocells. The company has supply contracts with Airvana and ip.access as well as other unnamed customers, and Qonverge PSC913x customers represent more than 50 percent of the small cell market, according to ABI Research. Freescale will soon offer QorIQ Qonverge PSC913x femtocell products with commercial LTE Layer 1 software for small cell base stations.

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