Cambridge Extends picoChip's Reference Design for 3G Home Basestation

Cambridge Consultants has designed a cellular basestation radio based on a consumer-grade handset component, to support picoChip’s reference design for the 3G femtocell market. The radio extends picoChip’s reference design for a 3G home basestation, providing developers with an exceptionally low cost implementation for a global market that is expected to grow to 100 million units per annum within a few years. Femotcell products allow cellular operators to counter the competitive technologies of UMA (Universal Mobile Access) and VoWiFi (voice-over-WiFi), with the added advantage of allowing customers to use their existing standard cellular handsets.

The HSDPA/HSUPA-compatible WCDMA design breaks new ground by adapting an IC created for low-cost/high-volume handset applications to implement the high-specification basestation radio, combined with an architectural split that exploits the very high computational performance available in the picoArray DSP device to perform the baseband and system control functions.

The resulting 3G home basestation design requires just these two major ICs – a bill of materials that meets the aggressive cost targets needed for this mass application. Alternative implementations can require more expensive carrier-class radio components, combined with processing cores based on both DSP and FPGA technologies. The 3G basestation design supports HSDPA and HSUPA (high speed downlink packet access and uplink packet access) data rates of 7 Mbits/second and 2 Mbits/second respectively.

picoChip awarded the design contract to Cambridge Consultants because the product developer offered experience of designing radios for highly cost sensitive markets such as 2G, ZigBee, DECT and Bluetooth.

“There are numerous radio consultancies out there, but few with a track record in creating designs optimized for low-cost/high-volume consumer applications,” says Rupert Baines, picoChip’s VP of marketing. “Cambridge Consultants gave us this skill, backed by the knowledge that our engineering teams work well together – as demonstrated on a successful previous WiMAX project.”

“If this application is to succeed, the bill of materials has to be in the same ballpark as a WiFi access point, a market with a supplier base that has a lead of several years in driving down costs,” adds Cambridge Consultants’ Tim Fowler. “A novel architectural split gave us the key – allowing us to use an existing consumer IC for the radio. We believe that this design could trim a year or more off the time it would normally take OEMs to get the costs of 3G access points down to the point needed for mass roll out.”

The design is based on a commercial handset radio IC, and the PC202 picoArray – picoChip’s device targeted at high volume applications. This latter multi-core DSP incorporates an array of processors, combined with an ARM 926EJ-S processor, and other resources needed to implement a baseband processor including a cryptographic engine and turbo coding logic.

Figures from ABI Research predict that there will be 102 million home basestation, or femtocell, users worldwide by 2011. The femtocell handles cellular calls locally and traffic is then carried to the operator’s core network via broadband connections. This not only reduces the need for multiple handsets (or expensive ‘dual-mode’ cellular and WiFi terminals), it also allows network coverage and capacity to be increased in a cost-effective manner, exactly where they are most needed by the end user.

About picoChip
picoChip, located in Bath, England, is dedicated to providing innovative, flexible wireless solutions to help equipment makers minimize time-to-market, costs, and system power consumption. The heart of the company’s offering is a scaleable, multi-processor baseband IC that combines the computational density of a dedicated ASIC with the programmability of a traditional high end Digital Signal Processor. This radically reduces both development time and materials cost and enables the strategic goal of the “Software Defined Radio”. The company has the most comprehensive reference designs in the industry, with complete, standard-compliant solutions for both UMTS (including HSxPA) and WiMAX (802.16d and 802.16e). picoChip Designs Ltd, Riverside Buildings, 108 Walcot Street, Bath, BA1 5BG, UK. t: +44 (0)1225 469 744.

About Cambridge Consultants
Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide. For nearly 50 years, the company has enabled its clients to turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of over 250 engineers, designers, scientists and consultants, in offices in Cambridge (UK) and Boston (USA), Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, automotive, transport, energy and wireless communications.