As of August 30th, Freescale has reported releasing samples of its QorIQ Qonverge platform System on a Chip (SoC) intended for use in small-cell base stations to select customers. These small cell base stations are intended for use in home and in small enterprise settings. With accelerating demand for bandwidth and data traffic increasing exponentially, Freescale believes these SoC products will significantly enhance the service available through the developing LTE and 4G infrastructure. According to Freescale, only a million units of small cells have shipped, but Freescale expects that nearly 40-50 million small cell units will ship in 2015. So, Freescale believes the market has extremely robust growth potential.
Freescale’s product portfolio supporting the small-cell marketplace will now include the PSC9132 SoC for picocells and the PCS9130/31 SoCs for femtocells. These SoCs incorporate microprocessors operating alongside digital signal processors (DSP). In addition, the chips feature baseband hardware accelerators which accelerate a number of decoding tasks. The software ecosystem for these products includes tools and operating systems from ENEA, Greenhills, Mentor Embedded, and Wind River in addition to Freescale’s own Codewarrior software package.
VDC sees a number of advantages that Freescale can leverage in these products. First, there is the ability to run simultaneous multimode, meaning these SoCs can support both LTE and wide-band CDMA devices at the same time. Freescale believes they are a unique provider of small cells that currently offers this multimode capability. This could give them a competitive edge in the many settings where legacy hardware and the next generation communications technologies overlap.
Also, Layer 2 processing (meaning switching and routing of data packets) is offloaded to the microprocessor. This frees up the DSP to strictly address Layer 1 processing (analog to digital conversion) and thus enables greater device efficiency. This contrasts with TI’s use of the DSP for some Layer 2 processing.
A third advantage is that these devices incorporate glueless RFIC communications and antennae interfaces, which renders additional chips, such as FPGAs, unnecessary. This represents a significant cost savings since fewer chips are needed and board space is freed for other components. It also makes this chip platform a strong contender against ASICs with their high non-recurring-engineering (NRE) costs. VDC believes that these advantages could allow Freescale better penetration into the base station market.