The move to 4G will not be cheap. Carriers must consider network upgrade costs and a refresh of their handsets, not to mention the issue of backhaul. Will they attempt wireless backhaul? Wait for fiber? One way or another, by 2013 carriers worldwide will invest some $163.5 billion in capital expenditures, with much of that going to 4G data services, according to data out today from ABI Research.
In the meantime, carriers in developing countries will be spending about $131 billion on 2G and 3G upgrades this year, while carriers in mature markets will start throwing their money at 4G in 2009. By 2013, carriers will spend about 28 percent for voice, 67 percent for data, and 5 percent for mobile TV.
Israeli chip startup DesignArt hopes to cut those costs with a line of base station chips for carriers that, when used in a clustered network, can essentially create their own backhaul. The other innovative aspect of the firm’s chip design is the fact that everything from radios to backhaul is on one chip. That system-on-a-chip design can cut both costs and the form factor of a base station, enabling equipment makers to use the chip in pico cells to base stations. It does this using 3 watts of power.
The company is currently sampling a WiMAX version of its chip, which will go into production next month; it plans to offer an LTE version later on. Motorola is checking out the chip and is also an investor.
Two things struck me about DesigArt’s chip: The first is that the time it will take them to bring it from idea to production is a mere 18 months, incredibly fast for the chip industry, where that time frame can run two years or more. The second is that, with so many functions on it, this single chip could prove a challenge to many of its competitors.
Joachim Hallwachs, VP of marketing for DesignArt, said the use of ARM cores, Tenscilica-embedded processors and its own customized RISC-based core all contributed to shorten the time needed for both design and integration. As for the competition, the firm will take on Intel, Texas Instruments, Freescale, Sequans, picoChip and Wintegra with its various components. The spending on 4G is just beginning, but if equipment makers buy into DesignArts’ semiconductors, the company may end up displacing a lot of chip makers.