Small cells

Cheap Femto Chips

11:35 AM -- WiMax chip startup DesignArt Networks fired a shot across the bows of other WiMax silicon firms like Sequans Communications and Picochip with a low-cost baseband system-on-chip (SoC) for WiMax femtocells, claiming that its new chip breaks through the $100 femto price barrier. (See DesignArt Does WiMax Femto Chips, Startup Tackles 4G Backhaul Bottleneck , and Moto Invests in DesignArt.)

"We can get a bill of materials that allows the cost of the femtocells to be below $100… No femto silicon gets close to that," says Joachim Hallwachs, VP of marketing at DesignArt. "We eliminate so many components."

With the new DAN 2200 SoC, some of the cost savings comes from integrating several application CPUs, a network processor, and synchronization options. The chip can be used in standalone femtos or integrated into a home gateways.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) whipped up a flurry of WiMax femto activity with its revelation of plans to dedicate spectrum for an extensive deployment of the home base stations as part of its deal with the new Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR). (See Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells and Cable Plays Clearwire Card.)

But DesignArt claims that WiMax femtos are not a business built just around Comcast. The startup says there are several operators in Korea and Japan that are interested in the devices and claims to know of a Dutch cable operator that plans to deploy WiMax femtos. Well, that's a start, anyway.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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