Cavium joins small cell chip race
Unveils Octeon Fusion range for LTE picocells, harnessing technology acquired with Wavesat
Published: 4 October, 2011
Cavium Networks has jumped into the increasingly busy, if fledgling, market for small cell base stations, with its Octeon Fusion 'baseband-on-a chip'.
Like products unveiled earlier in the year by base station silicon giants Freescale and Texas Instruments, the Fusion range is targeting picocells and the emerging breed of 'metrocells', which apply highly integrated techniques from the indoor femtocell market to public access, carrier base stations. This territory is being claimed by the traditional baseband suppliers such as TI, but also the femtocell specialists such as Picochip and Broadcom (via its Percello acquisition), and another would-be metrocell leader, Mindspeed.
Cavium's offering is scalable from 32 to 300 users and the first model, the CNF7120, will ship next quarter, supporting HSPA and 10/20MHz LTE. It incorporates two MIPS64 cores and four baseband cores, acquired last year with former WiMAX specialist Wavesat. Future models will scale up to six CPUs and eight DSP baseband cores, and will support 2x20MHz LTE or LTE-Advanced standards with carrier aggregation. The design needs a separate RF device, and has so far been tested with Analog Devices' LTE radio.
The new range is unusual for using the MIPS processor rather than PowerPC (seen in Freescale's new two-core products) or ARM (as in Texas Instruments' and Mindspeed's offerings). Cavium also uses more DSPs, which use the Tensilica technology - TI includes up to four DSPs, Freescale two and Mindspeed just one.
Cavium says it is working with a tier one OEM, as-yet unnamed, which has helped it develop an ASIC to complement the Wavesat platform, and a complete software suite with the chip, spanning layers one to three and dubbed FusionStack.
The chips will be demonstrated at this month's 4G World conference in an eNodeB base station handling eight simultaneous connections and streaming up to five HD videos, with downlink rates up to 72Mbps.
Cavium is bypassing the home femtocell market, which its infrastructure group general manager, YJ Kim, believes "hasn't taken off … What carriers need are small cells in campuses and malls where there is a high population density."