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Multicore Processors Target LTE

Craig Matsumoto
2/26/2010

The coming generation of Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment could be the first big telecom showcase for multicore processors, according to the latest Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider report.

Such chips will appear in other types of equipment, too, but in many cases, that gear will slowly percolate into networks. LTE, on the other hand, provides a blank slate that could become a "true proving ground for these offerings," contributing analyst Aileen Arcilla writes in the report, "Components Makers Scramble to Develop LTE Strategies." (See The Chips Are Up for LTE.)

Multicore processors, which cram multiple microprocessors onto one chip, represent the current wave of high-end processing. They'll pave the way for future networking gear, because carriers want systems that control more traffic without eating up a corresponding amount of power.

That combination will be key as LTE networks deploy. Users will expect their super-speed wireless connections to behave the way they expect landline connections to: no dropped sessions or timeouts. In other words, no one wants the problems AT&T reportedly has had with the iPhone. (See What if Capacity Isn't AT&T's iPhone Problem?)

That opens multiple fronts where high-end processors can shine. They can provide support for processing at Layers 2 through 7 inside an LTE eNodeB, for instance. Or, they can be used in 3G base transceiver stations (BTSs) to provide a software-upgrade path to 4G. Multicore DSP chips can do physical-layer processing and can be integrated with media access controllers (MACs).

The key to all this isn't just processing muscle. By integrating lots of processing power and/or multiple functions, multicore chips represent power savings.

"Power consumption will be critical to address while base stations are transmitting huge amounts of traffic to any given number of users under varying environmental and design conditions," Arcilla writes.

The report covers nine chip companies targeting infrastructure: Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Cavium Inc. (Nasdaq: CAVM), Freescale Semiconductor Inc. , LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI), Mindspeed Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: MSPD), NetLogic Inc. , Picochip , TranSwitch Corp. (Nasdaq: TXCC), and Wintegra Inc. The report also discusses chips from four vendors targeting handset and customer-premises gear.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading


Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to the 13th Annual Tower Technology Summit in Las Vegas, March 23-25. Collocated with CTIA Wireless 2010, registration includes access to CTIA Keynotes and to CTIA Exhibits. For more information, or to register, click here.




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