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Mobile

Moto Ups the Silicon Ante

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has announced plans for reconfigurable chipsets that it says will make the design and development of wireless infrastructure cheaper and easier (see Moto Boosts Design, WISP).

The idea behind the new chips is that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be able to use them to build products that can be upgraded as and when standards and technologies evolve -- without having to source new silicon. This approach is becoming increasing popular with a variety of vendors in the fast-moving world of wireless (see PicoChip Plays 3G Cost Ace and TI Offers New UMTS Chipset).

The new silicon, based on Reconfigurable Compute Fabric (RCF) technology, is a significant step towards software-defined radio (SDR), according to Will Strauss, president of research house Forward Concepts Co. He believes this is the first time a major supplier of digital signal processors "has moved into the area of reconfigurable signal processing."

Software-defined radio is a technology that is expected to enable vendors to eventually develop a single chip that can support multiple wireless LAN and WAN radios. There are a number of vendors attempting to develop products using this kind of technology (see Intel's Soft Center and Xilinx Teams on SDR), although most agree that true SDR is a few years out.

Motorola claims its design offers the flexibility of a programmable digital signal processor (DSP) coupled with processing power, low power consumption, and a price that approaches that of pre-configured application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) -- chips that are custom-designed to perform a single task.

Details of actual products and prices, as well as associated tools and software libraries, are due to be unveiled in June at a Motorola developer conference in Europe.

Motorola also announced the latest version of its Smart Wireless Network Interface (WNI) software, which may be used by manufacturers to adapt the designs of their base station line cards.

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung

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