picoChip Software Reference Designs Feature Femtocell Sniffer

picoChip has announced three software reference designs that provide the first integrated network listen (or ‘sniffer’) capabilities for femtocells. The PC8210, PC8211 and PC8810 Radio Environment Scanners (RESs) enable femtocells to detect WCDMA, GSM and TD-SCDMA networks respectively. A ‘sniffer’ or ‘network listen’ capability is essential to automate the tasks of cell planning, synchronization and handover within networks. Such functionality also enables the implementation of the self-organizing network (SON) techniques that will underlay the operation of future networks, and can be used to support timing and synchronization.

Specific techniques to perform the necessary interference management and self-configuration tasks are being developed by infrastructure OEMs and may include intellectual property in the form of algorithms or other computational techniques. However, all of these algorithms require the fundamental measurement and reporting information enabled by these new picoChip products.

“Our customers are investing heavily in developing and implementing the advanced IP needed for self-optimizing networks, and picoChip aims to match their commitment,” said Doug Pulley, CTO and co-founder at picoChip. “Our first-mover position in the femtocell arena means that we have built a unique understanding of the challenges of enabling these functions – and can already offer fully-fledged solutions that are the fruits of many person-years of development.”

Traditional network architectures required intensive, expensive, manual planning and configuration: unique WCDMA scrambling codes were allocated, GSM frequency planning was performed and the transmit power for each basestation was set at the time the node was added to the network. In contrast, the new picoChip software enables femtocells based on the company’s chips to run the manufacturer-specific code for SON or cognitive radio that automatically manages self-configuration and on-going self-optimization tasks.

Until now, realizing these features in a basestation would have required a complete handset baseband chipset and radio: this is replaced by software in the picoChip solution, significantly reducing overall femtocell cost.

The PC8210, PC8810 and PC8211 reference designs perform cell search and decode automatically to implement self-configuration and hence automate provisioning. In an all-3G context, they also enable handover between a femtocell and adjacent cells. Moreover, as users move in and out of range in a mixed 2G/3G network, the PC8211 (GSM) reference design enables hand-off between a 3G femtocell and adjacent GSM basestations.

All three software reference designs target the picoChip PC202 single chip femtocell device. In addition, the WCDMA RES capability is integrated into the hardware of the next-generation PC3xx system-on-chip products. The PC8211 GSM RES reference design also targets the PC203, PC205 and PC302 picoChip devices.

picoChip is the only semiconductor company focused solely on wireless infrastructure and shipping silicon. It provides baseband solutions to address the key challenges of cost, development time and flexibility for the next generation of wireless systems. The company’s multi-core processors deliver a world-beating price/performance combination. picoChip is the industry standard architecture for WiMAX basestations, and is the leading supplier for the new wave of femtocells, with support for HSPA, WiMAX, LTE, TD-SCDMA, cdma2000/EvDO and GSM/GPRS/EDGE. The company’s products scale from femtocell access points to picocells and sophisticated multi-sector carrier macrocells.

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