ST-Ericsson brings 3GHz speeds to handsets
Blazes back onto the smartphone chip map with next generation NovaThor, delivering PC-speed apps processing
Published: 26 February, 2013
ST-Ericsson is at a critical transition point in its tumultuous history, facing continuing losses and an imminent change of ownership. Despite some technically strong launches, notably its NovaThor integrated smartphone platform, it is struggling with the migration from legacy products and with the loss of market share to Qualcomm, Nvidia and others. Now it is making a dramatic bid to raise its profile by showing the first 3GHz smartphone processor, bringing PC speeds to mobile gadgets.
Rather like when Nvidia leapt ahead of the pack to push quad-core mobile chips, there will be debate about whether handsets really need this clock speed, and how it will impact battery life. But at least the NovaThor L8580, currently in prototype form, will get STE noticed again.
The chipset is an integrated platform combining a 3GHz eQuad apps processor and a multimode LTE modem, enabled for LTE-Advanced features such as carrier aggregation. The company's statement indicates why it has been so quick to demonstrate this speed, to get itself back on the map as a leader not a follower - it said the demonstration was "validating the company as an innovator in the wireless market".
CEO Didier Lamouche said: "Our next generation NovaThor platform is creating a disruption for the wireless industry by combining some of the most advanced technologies on the market, including STMicroelectronics' 28nm FD-SOI process technology, to deliver a real industry breakthrough in terms of speed, power consumption and overall performance."
The processor will run apps up to 35% faster on the CPU side and 20% in terms of graphics and media. "With the NovaThor L8580, ST-Ericsson is bringing speeds normally reserved for the PC market to mobile devices," Lamouche added.
In fact, the initial commercial version of the NovaThor L8580 has a 2.5GHz eQuad processor, based on ARM Cortex-A9s and a 600MHz Imagination PowerVR GPU. It also includes the multimode LTE modem on a single 28nm FD-SOI die. It supports 3GPP Release 10 and Cat-4 (downlink up to 150Mbps), including TDD and FDD modes, VoLTE and HD voice, along with HSPA+, GSM and TD-SCDMA. It can also support up to 17 bands in the same device and a single radio for carrier aggregation. STE will also pre-integrate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Miracast, GPS/GNSS, FM and NFC connectivity.
But it is the 3GHz headline which will capture the attention and it is not clear when that will appear in commercial chips, not to mention commercial devices.
STE also announced a deal to incorporate specialized augmented reality processors from Germany-based Metaio's in its upcoming smartphone chipsets. This will be the first dedicated chip of its kind to see commercial deployment, and it should address the biggest downside of AR, its battery consumption. Metaio CEO Peter Meier said: "The AREngine will do for augmented reality what the GPU did years ago for the gaming industry. This is a great leap in the AR space, and we strongly believe that the AR Engine working with ST-Ericsson platforms will help realize the augmented city - the idea of a completely connected environment powered by augmented reality and made possible with next-gen, optimized mobile platforms."