February 17, 2015
By Will Strauss
Intel Completes Siemens Acquisition??
With the pending purchase of Lantiq Semiconductor, Intel will have acquired the former wireline part of Infineon that was split off as Lantiq before Intel bought the surviving Infineon wireless operation…through which Intel gained a strong foothold in the cellphone chip market. Intel said that the purchase is to expand its range of chips used in Internet-connected gadgets, namely M2M or IoT chips. Except for the memory operation (that was earlier spun off by Infineon), this move effectively makes Intel the acquirer of the former Siemens AG semiconductor business.
India’s New Fabs
Last week, Cricket Semiconductor, a US-based company announced plans for the creation of an analog foundry in India. The company’s founders include ex-TI’ers Lou Hutter (CEO) and Mark Howard. The plan for the new fab in Madhya Pradesh is to be associated with an existing (un-named) fab for operational assistance. With an investment of close to $1 billion, this is a significant undertaking. In addition, the local government is providing free land, reimbursement for the cost of building the fab shell, 24X7 power supply from two separate power grids and quality water supply at the doorsteps of the fab units at an internationally competitive price fixed for 10 years.
This approach addresses some of the key problems that have hindered fab development in India: namely access to dependable power and water. Anyone who’s visited India for some time has experienced its occasional power blackouts. And there has been one other problem.
The British left India with some key legacies:
2) The English language
3) The railroad, and
4) Government bureaucracy
India’s first fab, some 30 years ago, was for the Indian Telephone Company. A colleague who consulted on the fab told me of ridiculous bureaucratic roadblocks in getting the fab up and running. For example, he pointed out that a pallet of photoresist sat on the airport tarmac for months waiting for customs clearance. Of course, the resulting material wasn’t even good for glue. Hopefully the bureaucracy problem has now been adequately addressed, but I’m unaware of any newer fabs in India, until now.
Two additional (digital) IC fabs that are planned for India include:
1. A fab proposed by Jayprakash Associates in partnership with IBM and TowerJazz near Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Technology proposed are 90, 65 and 45 nm nodes in the first phase.
2. The other fab is coming up near Gandhinagar, Gujarath, proposed by Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (HSMC) in partnership with STMicroelectronics and Silterra. Technology proposed are also 90, 65 and 45 nm nodes in Phase 1.
I’ll be watching, and I just set my watch.
LTE-U Gains Friends and Foes
LTE-U is simply applying LTE air interface technology to wireless communication over the “unlicensed” 5GHz band. That’s the same band that Wi-Fi and a myriad of other things (medical/industrial, etc.) also occupy. By employing the current “licensed” LTE as an “anchor” paired with another communication link greater effective bandwidth is provided in the downlink to the user (uplink is ruled out for technical reasons). Several companies are active in developing LTE-U, including Ericsson, SK Telecom and Qualcomm. Naturally, they all see grater bandwidth, expanded service offerings and more product sales accruing from the approach.
There are several approaches to expanding bandwidth through LTE pairings (besides LTE-A), but two stand out:
1) Pairing LTE with Wi-Fi: LTE-Wi-Fi link aggregation, enabled through a carrier that offers both Wi-Fi and LTE wireless services. Of course, that approach requires cooperation by the carrier.
2) Pairing conventional LTE with LTE-U: LTE-U is simply a separate carrier designed for unlicensed 5GHz spectrum operation
The first approach appears to be acceptable by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The second approach is considered an encroachment into Wi-Fi’s territory, leading to concerns of overcrowding in the unlicensed 5GHz band. Qualcomm, in its development efforts claims that LTE-U is less disruptive than even other Wi-Fi signals in that band. It should also be pointed out that LTE-U can operate alone for applications yet to be determined. We’ll know more at MWC.
MWC: IoT and 5G Calibration
The annual gathering of wireless CEOs and technical mavens is just over a week away (March 2-5) at the Mobile World Congress (MWC).in Barcelona. One thing is clear, there will be fewer LTE modem chip suppliers (remember Renesas Mobile, Broadcom, Ericsson, and a couple of others still hanging by a tread). This puts a few companies in the driver’s seat for FDD-LTE modem chips: Qualcomm, Intel, MediaTek, Samsung and Marvell, followed by HiSilicon, ZTE and Spreadtrum. Of course, single-mode LTE suppliers Altair, GCT and Sequans continue to be players in tablets, USB modems, etc.
As I’ve pointed out before, most chip and OEM companies are now offering M2M/IoT solutions, even if they are simply legacy products that they have now brought under the IoT umbrella. We’ll see lots of IoT products at MWC.
The other topic of interest is 5G, or what follows 4G (beyond LTE-A). Of course there will be more smartphones and smart watches there than we can count.