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Qualcomm and Cavium debut small cell chips

As Small Cells World Summit kicks off, new system-on-chip products emerge, including tri-mode designs

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 4 June, 2013

READ MORE: Qualcomm | Processor | Reference Design | Femtocell | LTE

The Small Cells World Summit kicks off today in London, bringing together the broadening ecosystem around mini-base stations from indoor femtocells to carrier-grade metrocells. There will be much debate over how and when these products will rescue operators from the looming capacity crunch, but ahead of day one, the chip designers were already jostling for position. Qualcomm and Cavium leapt ahead with their latest small cell solutions.

Qualcomm introduced a multimode platform for metrocells, picocells and enterprise access points, combining 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi. Some operators, such as AT&T, believe they will be able to deploy multimode small cells from early next year, though others remain uncertain whether integrated Wi-Fi will be worth the additional cost and complexity in the near to medium term.


The Qualcomm FSM99xx family is based on 28nm process technology and integrates the new high speed Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac, as well as 802.11n and cellular technologies - concurrent 3G and 4G, or dual-carrier LTE with carrier aggregation.

The San Diego giant says it has focused hard on power efficiency for the FSM99xx, as well as compliance with power over Ethernet for enterprise deployments. The systems are based on the quad-core Krait mobile processors, which achieve low power consumption as they are more commonly used in smartphones. The small cell offerings also feature RF linearization techniques to reduce power amplifier power consumption by up to half - Qualcomm points out this is important since amplifiers can consume more than 50% of a cell's power budget.

Also supported is self-organizing network (SON) techniques, including Qualcomm's own UltraSON suite. The chips will sample in the second half of this year.

"Our new small cell solutions draw upon our immense mobile, Wi-Fi and networking strengths to enhance the consumer's mobile experiences," said Dan Rabinovitsj, general manager at Qualcomm Atheros.

Over at Cavium, the company introduced a small cell reference design based on its Octeon Fusion processor at the Computex show in Taiwan, with support for dual-radio access. It supports over 128 active users and concurrent LTE/W-CDMA technologies.

The design is targeted at carrier and enterprise cells and is production ready, and Cavium will also demonstrate a tri-mode platform which also includes Wi-Fi. The Dual-RAT solution extends the capabilities of Cavium's existing LTE-only enterprise small cell SoC. The reference design includes manufacturing files as well as LTE and WCDMA L1 - L3 software stacks, application layer APIs and a software development kit.

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