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Cavium’s Comms Integration

Communications chips have typically been dedicated to a specific piece of the complicated comms technology puzzle everywhere except in handsets, where space drives integration. But now, pieces that used to reside in separate chips are starting to come together. We saw that recently with Netlogic, and now Cavium has declared further integration in their just-announced OCTEON Fusion family, albeit for a different application: a “base station on a chip.”

It combines their MIPS-based multicore architecture with baseband DSP cores, hardware accelerators for LTE/3G functions, and their digital front end.

The idea here is not so much to shrink traditional base stations, but rather to simplify the creation and deployment of the base stations for the smaller cells that are starting to proliferate in densely populated areas and even inside buildings: the so-called micro-, pico-, and femtocells. In other words, smaller cells should have smaller base stations. (Who wants a big cabinet in their house just to fix the crappy cell coverage in the neighborhood?)

When you look up the definitions of what distinguishes these three categories of cell from standard (macro-) cells and from each other, you’ll typically see definitions that relate to the size of the cell. Which mostly determines signal power, really. When it comes to the amount of processing power you need, it’s the number of calls or users you’re handling that matters.

So I asked Cavium how they define these cells in terms of user load, and they identified the four following categories:

–          Microcell: 256+ users

–          Picocell: 128+ users

–          Enterprise femtocell: 32-64 users

–          Home femtocell: 4 users

They address these with three family members: the CNF7120 for 64 users; the CNF7130 for 256 users, and the CNF7280 for 300+ users.

More info in their press release

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