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Vendors dial up integrated chips for low-cost phones

Posted: 17 Dec 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:emerging markets  chip-set providers  GSM standard 

Ultralow-cost phones—those selling for $30 to $40—are expected to capture more than 10 per cent of worldwide mobile phone sales by 2010. According to market watcher Strategy Analytics, the handsets will be aimed at the emerging markets of India, China, Russia and Brazil—the regions from which the next billion subscribers are expected to come. So it's no surprise that chip-set providers are racing into a market that holds such vast sales potential.

For Infineon, the system-on-chip answer for the GSM standard is the E-Goldvoice chip (PMB7880), which forms the basis for Infineon's second-generation mobile phone platform, the ULC2. The PMB7880 packs a dual-band GSM baseband processor, an RF transceiver, SRAM and power management into a single die, essentially integrating the PMB7860 E-Goldlite baseband and PMB6271 Smarti SD2 transceiver in a 0.13-micron CMOS process.

Infineon says that compared with its ULC1 platform, the new platform can reduce the bill-of-materials cost approximately 20 per cent, to about $16; the PC board area by more than 50 per cent, to about 4cm²; and the BOM parts count by 50 per cent as well, to about 50.

Another interesting competitor is the Qualcomm QSC6010. Marketed as a single-chip solution, the offering is part of Qualcomm's Value Platform, which supports cdma2000 1x. It integrates the baseband modem, radio transceiver, power management and multimedia engines into a single package.

The RF/analogue die in the QSC6010 is fabricated in a 0.18-micron CMOS process, which is typical of other Qualcomm CMOS RF parts. As expected, this low-cost solution has elements of design reuse from the RFR6122 and RFT6122 cdma2000 1x RF CMOS devices, as well as from the analogue die in the MSM6280.

Texas Instruments, for its part, offers the single-chip GPRS LoCosto TCS2310. TI has used its DRP digital RF processor technology to combine the baseband processor and radio functions into a single integrated die fabricated in a 90-nanometer CMOS process. TI's next-generation LoCosto TCS2315, fabricated in a 65-nm process, is expected to reduce the PC board footprint of the total solution in line with the area required by Infineon's ULC2 solution.

Given the size of the ultralow-cost phone market and the continued requirement to drive down the BOM cost, look for continued innovation, much of it a result of adaptations of technology and chip set designs aimed at more-expensive, feature-rich handset markets.

Figure: Infineon PMB7880 die showing Rx (bottom left), Tx (lower left, with VCO) and digital (top half) sections.

Michael Keller
Semiconductor Insights

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