PicoChip Unveils LTE Femto Design

Picochip took the wraps off its first reference designs for long-term evolution (LTE) femtocells and picocells today. (See PicoChip Does LTE Femtos.)

The new designs will enable picoChip’s existing femtocell customers -- which include Ubiquisys Ltd. and ip.access Ltd. -- to upgrade to the so-called 4G technology, LTE, as the new kit can be combined with the company’s high-speed packet access (HSPA) products. The designs also run on the same common hardware platform as its WiMax base-station reference designs. (See PicoChip Unveils LTE Reference Design.)

Femtocells could play an important role in 4G LTE networks, and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has already started work on specifications for LTE femtocells, which it gracefully refers to as “Home eNodeB.”

The availability of LTE femtocells might even change the way operators deploy future mobile broadband networks. One theory has it that operators could actually start their LTE deployments with femtocells in customers’ homes, using the existing 3G networks for macro coverage, and then build out LTE macro base stations as the capacity demands it.

“In terms of LTE, it was recognized very early on that there will be a home base station,” says Manish Singh, vice president of product line management at Continuous Computing Corp. . “Home eNode B's would seamlessly hand out to [the macro network], including 3G. With femtocells, the network scales as customers sign up. Once you get enough significant mass, carriers can rollout a complete macro network.” (See Continuous & picoChip Partner.)

PicoChip’s new reference designs run on the same hardware platforms as the company’s WiMax base-station reference designs and include PHY and MAC and offer 5 MHz and 10 MHz solutions. And both time division duplex (TDD) and frequency division duplex (FDD) modes are supported. The platform has been developed with partners mimoOn GmbH and Wintegra Inc.

The LTE femto reference designs build on picoChip’s release earlier this year of a TD-SCDMA femtocell design for the Chinese market. (See PicoChip Unveils Chinese Femtocell.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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