Freescale have this week announced a new range of chips designed for (larger) femtocells. We asked Stephen Turnbull, Marketing Manager for Wireless Access Products for their view of the femtocell market today and where these new chips would be used.
What is your view of the femtocell market today?
We see a lot of growth in both femtocell and so-called HetNet markets. There is a lot of activity across the board, but we have specifically seen strong demand for multi-mode femtocells [capable of operating both 3G and LTE simultaneously].
The larger OEMs with already proven macrocell products are expanding their portfolio to include smaller cell products, which drives a desire for scalability in their designs.
At the same time, the smaller femtocell players are looking to move up into higher capacity products.
The sweet spot for these larger, higher capacity solutions is for a 64 [concurrent] user size product.
Both categories of equipment vendors are looking to leverage their existing base station design experience, using proven solutions but with more scalability.
Tell us about your latest product?
We’ve launched three new chips which are designed to meet this requirement. The high end PSC9132 can handle up to 100 simultaneous users in single mode (ie LTE or HSPA) on a single sector with 2x2 MIMO. Alternatively, it can operate multi-mode sharing resources between both 3G and LTE.
The smaller PSC9130 and PSC 9131 processors are designed to handle up to 16 simultaneous users in a single sector.
The chipset combines several existing and proven products into a single chip – powerful microprocessor, DSP baseband processing and our MAPLE hardware accelerator.
External interfaces include Gigabit Ethernet, USB, timing and RF. Internal functions include secure boot and IP security encoding/decoding.
We’ve worked closely with two major RF chip vendors, MAXIM and Analog Devices to ensure that these can be directly connected – there is no interfacing chip required.
What about software support?
Freescale supply the Layer 1 stack that handles the RF baseband processing. We’re also able to supply a full IP stack, including the IPsec security aspects through our acquisition of Vortiqa.
Both of our partners Aricent and Radisys (who acquired Continuous Computing) have Layer 2/3 stacks which are both well proven in this field. Other software vendors also advertise support for these chips.
So customers have a choice of developing all the software themselves or basing it on these proven partner solutions.
When can we expect to see commercial products on the streets?
The chips were originally announced back in February and are now sampling this quarter. We’ll be shipping to Alpha customers in October with full production ramping up by 2Q 2012.
In order to accelerate development, we offer a reference design board with RF interfaces from both MAXIM and ADI.
Who do you think will be most interested in this new product range?
We’ve seen growing interest from existing femtocell companies seeking to move up into the 64 user space. We’ve also seen demand from our macrocell customers looking to downsize. These two sectors aren’t quite all over each other yet though.
Those downsizing from macro to metro-femto want to keep a lot of their high end features, which place greater demands on the processing power required.
We’ve seen a lot of RFQs (Request for Quotations) just now from femtocell vendors – many new to Freescale. We feel this is a validation of our product strategy, which we are continuing to invest in. We will be announcing further solutions in the future, both for larger and smaller devices.
These products are not targeted at or suitable for small residential femtocells, and we recognise you can’t just run existing macrocell software on a femtocell – there are many different requirements.
The wireless infrastructure business is a large part of Freescale and we have to adapt to meet changing market needs. We feel these new chips will allow us to address them and maintain our leading position.