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November 3, 1999

ARM/TI & Motorola Look to Set Pace in the 2.5/3G Market

By CBR Staff Writer

Three of the major chip companies in the mobile device market are looking to develop a definitive silicon platform for devices that support current and upcoming wireless standards. Motorola Inc has developed what it calls a universal wireless chip for TDMA, CDMA, GSM and iDEN services – the so-called 2.5G standards. Meanwhile, Texas Instruments Inc and ARM Holdings Plc are joining forces to develop a chip for third generation broadband mobile networks, in anticipation of a vast market as 3G services come online early next century. Texas Instruments, Symbian Plc and Nokia Oy are already promoting the Open Multimedia Application Platform (OMAP) as an industry standard for 3G devices, which has a 130MHz ARM RISC core at the heart of the platform specification.

Both processors – the Motorola DSP56690 and the as yet unnamed ARM/TI collaboration – share a broadly similar design. Both are dual-core chips, which use a general purpose processor to control the user interface on a mobile device and a DSP core to handle the wireless data crunching functions – the ‘air interface’. John Cornish, director of product management at ARM, said that adding DSP extensions to a general purpose core as ARM has done in the past would no longer suffice, simply because of the additional services such as video data that the ARM/TI chip would be expected to handle.

The Motorola chip combines its own StarCore 140 DSP component with its MCore controller. The part is expected to be in production by early next year. ARM and TI are not releasing the technical details of their collaboration. However, TI has just licensed the ARM10 core design. Cornish also said that the chip would likely be built on a micron process design rule lower than the 0.18 design rule that manufacturers are currently transitioning to. He also expects the chip to include Bluetooth functions on the same die. Cornish would not give a timeframe for dual-core development, but given the expected roll-out of 3G services, the chip should be on the market by the end of next year at the latest. Motorola is also working on its own dual-core 3G design.

The advantage of the single chip approach is a reduction in power consumption and chipset size – crucial issues for mobile device manufacturers – as well as lower costs of production. The prize for the chip companies is a potentially huge market for their wares. A new report from research firm Ovum suggests that 3G networks will carry over a billion cellular subscribers by 2010 – that’s 63% of the estimated market – and that 3G will account for $548bn (66%) of the total cellular service revenue by that time. The report says that that additional services will be gradually added after 3G services are launched in 2001, 3G services will be implemented in most countries by 2006. á

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