The Linley Group’s Bryne stressed: “A key requirement for the base stations is cost, which directly impacts the chip suppliers. The ones that can reduce system cost (e.g., through integration) will be in a better position.”
Meanwhile, Abhi Dugar, research manager at IDC, noted, “Operators will be stuck with supporting multi-mode networks for a while so small base stations will be part of their network architecture for LTE and 3G networks.” Asked about key requirements operators are imposing upon small cells, he explained, “They are around multi-mode support, more integration to reduce BoM cost, lower power consumption, ability to source from multiple ODMs/OEMs, ease of installation/use at customer premise, minimal field support.”
When asked to compare small-cell base station SoCs from TI and Freescale, the Linley Group’s Byrne noted, “TI is targeting small-cell stations for the enterprise and larger.” Meanwhile, “Freescale targets these with the PSC9132 but also targets residential femto with the PSC9130 and PSC9131.”
In Byrne’s opinion, “The closest comparison is between Freescale’s PSC9132 and the TI’s TCI6612. An important difference is that the Freescale part requires 40 percent less power. Freescale’s chip (PSC9132), however, supports only LTE Category 4 (150-Mbps/75-Mbps), compared with LTE Category 5 (300-Mbps/150-Mbps) supported by the TI chip.”
Many variables make the network architecture debate more complex. One of the issues is how to strike a balance between a throughput and a number of users supported by a small-cell base station. “It’s because it all depends on the use case scenarios,” said Scott Aylor, director and general manager of Freescale’s wireless access division.
One of TI’s small cell base station SoCs,TCI6614, for example, features quad C66x DSP cores and ARM Cortex-A8 and offers simultaneous dual mode, meaning that it can run two standards at the same time – LTE and WCDMA. That chip can support 128 users, according to TI.