Small cells

TI Muscles In on Small Cells

U.K. femtocell firm Ubiquisys Ltd. has chosen Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) to supply silicon for a new range of dual-mode 3G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) small cells in a partnership deal announced Wednesday. (See TI, Ubiquisys Do Small Cells.)

The small base stations -- the first of which are expected to be available in the first half of 2012 -- are designed for deployment in public spaces and metro networks to boost capacity on mobile data networks. They are likely to be mounted outdoors on walls or lampposts, for example.

Ubiquisys evaluated eight different silicon suppliers before choosing TI, including Freescale Semiconductor Inc. , Mindspeed Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: MSPD), Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and its current residential femto chipset partner Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), according to the company's CTO Will Franks.

He pointed to TI's packet data processing capabilities as well as the company's understanding of the macrocell network as key reasons for going with the chip giant.

The first small cells to come from this partnership are expected to be deployed in 3G networks rather than LTE, because most operators need extra capacity on their existing mobile data networks now to cope with the data traffic from rising numbers of smartphone users. LTE support can be added as a software upgrade when an operator needs it.

Why this matters
TI adds weight to the outdoor small cell market, which is in its infancy and has been the target for skepticism in the industry. While sprinkling 3G or LTE small cells among massive macrocells in high-traffic areas sounds like a compelling way to add capacity in a radio access network, a big challenge remains in the ability to provide backhaul connections to these little base stations. (See TI Dives Into Femtos, Infonetics: Still Early in the Game for LTE Small Cells and Study: Small Cells to Dominate 4G.)

This partnership also has implications for the many other small cell chip contenders -- including Broadcom, Freescale, Mindspeed, Picochip and Qualcomm. Ubiquisys's Franks says that they are all very similar functionally and that "the lines are blurring between femtocell and macrocell."

But despite those similarities, Ubiquisys has opted for two silicon suppliers: Broadcom for residential and enterprise femtocells and TI for metro small cells.

For more
This news is the latest in small cell developments and adds to the already exciting market for mobile chips, where M&A activity abounds:

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:05:34 PM
re: TI Muscles In on Small Cells

Backhaul is one thing when it comes to small cell challenges, but what about network management. Will small cells just slot in to operators' existing management systems or does self-organizing networks (SON) take care of all that?

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:05:31 PM
re: TI Muscles In on Small Cells


I just can't wait to diagnose intermittent problems in SON environments (dripping with sarcasm).




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