Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies Inc.’s research arm, has designed a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) chip that it says will increase throughput and range of forthcoming third-generation (3G) base stations. The company has also licensed the technology so it can be used by UMTS device manufacturers to increase transfer speeds and reduce power requirements of next-generation mobile handsets.
The baseband processor, designed by an Australian team of Bell Labs researchers, is the first to combine the digital encoding of voice and data on one chip while conforming to the latest UMTS specification established by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a consortium of standards bodies trying to establish worldwide specs for mobile networks.
"What makes the chip different from current UMTS offerings is the design," says Kurt Steinert, a Lucent spokesman. "Bell Labs developed a core design for decoding both voice and data traffic with minimal need for support from a host processor. This is a faster, less costly implementation than competitive solutions that depend on an off-chip processor."
Lucent reckons that the new processor offers substantial performance improvements, allowing base station systems to serve up to 10 percent more customers than base stations incorporating currently available baseband processors. "As compared to existing technology, it offers UMTS operators greater capacity for higher data throughput to more customers, or support for more voice traffic, or greater range of coverage for each base station," Steinert says.
Unfortunately, Lucent didn't have more concrete figures on the performance of base stations immediately available to support these claims. However, anything that reduces the cost of UMTS equipment, while also increasing the throughput and range of the kit, is likely to be popular with operators.
As Unstrung has reported before (see ArrayComm Has Its Chips), early UMTS tests have not delivered the kind of performance that will make the 3G dream of video-on-demand and multimedia downloads on the handset a reality.
Lucent has also licensed the chip technology to be used in mobile devices. "The real power savings would be on the device side, with mobile phones, wireless modem cards, etc.," Steinert says. "Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to discuss the specifics of the work on devices at this time."
The first products using the chip will be available in the summer.