Topple the Towers: Freescale’s SOI SoC in Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio

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45nm SOI is a big part of the big news from the Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona last week. That’s because Freescale’s newly announced QorIQ Qonverge is the “base-station on a chip” in the Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio™ technology, which was the talk of the show. (See the video.)

The Bell Labs guys came up with what they’re calling the lightRadio cube. It doesn’t need a big tower nor a lot of power. In fact it fits in the palm of the hand – and that’s where the Freescale chip comes in.

Wim Sweldens, President Alcatel-Lucent Wireless Division, presents the lightRadio cube. (Courtesy: Alcatel-Lucent)

“Freescale is collaborating with Alcatel-Lucent to provide the chip-based architectures through our new system-on-chip technology that supports the highly-flexible, multi-standard, programmable capability required to make lightRadio a reality,” explains Lisa Su, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group.

A chip that fits the equivalent of a hut full of equipment into a box the size of a Rubik’s cube was key. It could enable the industry to expand wireless coverage as easily downtown as in rural villages – without building more towers.

“Freescale’s innovative QorIQ Qonverge platform provides the integration, performance, energy efficiency and unmatched scalability that our new lightRadio™ product portfolio requires,” explained Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless Division. “Game-changing products like lightRadio disaggregate the base station between the network and the wideband active antenna, produce dramatic cost savings and need components that provide giant leaps forward such as Freescale’s new QorIQ Qonverge technology.”

So why 45nm SOI?

Freescale’s Mike Mendicino (who’s also now on the Board of Director’s for the SOI Consortium) explained it for ASN readers a couple of years ago.

“Freescale was the first embedded processing company to roll out new devices for communications and networking markets in 45nm SOI technology, taking advantage of its excellent power-to-performance capabilities,” he said.

“For developers of telecom equipment, for example, QorIQ-based microprocessor technology can help reduce the bill-of-material (BOM) costs in a typical 3-sector, 10MHz LTE (“long-term evolution”) base station by as much as 60 percent, while simultaneously reducing power consumption by 50 percent. Plus, the 45nm parts deliver enough performance to support double the number of users over the previous generation solution.”

Here’s the slide that says it all:

As Mike said, “The results are astonishing.”

Just in time, too, as Bell Labs predicts 30x more wireless data traffic by 2015. Which explains why the analyst firm Infonetics projects radio access network base station spending to be $197 billion worldwide over the next four years.

Thanks in large part to SOI, that could be handled without a forest of towers. Doesn’t that sound good?

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