Freescale unveils basestation on a chip

In a move that could have an impact on how wireless carriers meet 4G data demands, Freescale Semiconductor unveiled plans for a "basestation on a chip."

In a move that could have an impact on how wireless carriers meet 4G data demands, Freescale Semiconductor unveiled plans for a "basestation on a chip."

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Freescale will outline a new family of processors for cell sites. The family, called QorIQ Converge, features hybrid technology that can collapse the need for various processors usually needed at a cell site. As a result, Freescale's basestation on a chip will allow gear to shrink and be more easily deployed at bus stops, enterprises and other buildings.

Alcatel Lucent earlier this month highlighted the possibilities. With Hewlett-Packard and Freescale, Alcatel-Lucent detailed LightRadio, which can streamline mobile broadband deployments. Simply put, the future of wireless network deployments will revolve around small cells to fill in coverage gaps. Alcatel-Lucent announced a small cell trial in Saudi Arabia. Here's why Freescale's base station on a chip---and similar efforts---matter.

  • 4G will lead to more data consumption.
  • So called macro towers---those big structures with wireless antennas---can't easily be deployed to zoning and other issues.
  • Freescale's chip will support multimode technologies.
  • As a result, small cell sites will help bolster the mobile broadband network. These sites will feature equipment small enough to be deployed anywhere easily.
  • Meanwhile, Freescale's basestation on a chip can also be used in Femto cells, equipment that can be put in a home to bolster a network.
  • Freescale's system on a chip support anywhere from 8 to 64 multimode (WCDMA, LTE) users depending on the configuration.

Scott Aylor, director of Freescale's wireless access division, says the technology could create new models for carriers. For instance, instead of a two year contract a wireless company may give you a subsidized tablet if you also buy a femto cell. "When you buy that great new LTE capable phone or tablet you pay one price for that device, but if you take a femto cell a carrier may give you a lower monthly data subscription," explained Aylor. "Why? You'd put less strain on the network."

Aylor's take was interesting. After all, building macro towers has become inefficient. The new model will feature multiple small cell sites to complement the big towers.

Freescale's basestation on a chip will be available in the third quarter and processors for macro cell sites to come in a second wave. Just as LTE devices proliferate in early 2012.