FORWARD CONCEPTS - WIRELESS/DSP NEWSLETTER - February 23, 2017

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FORWARD CONCEPTS - WIRELESS/DSP NEWSLETTER
February 23, 2017

By TIRIAS Research

Introducing TIRIAS Research
Last year Will Strauss asked us to take over his newsletter as he decided to step back from full-time responsibilities. We are honored that he entrusted us with this newsletter and will do our best to keep you informed on the latest moves in the industry. He has joined TIRIAS Research as a senior advisor and occasional contributor. We will be publishing the newsletter on a monthly basis and special editions tied to major industry events and critical news. If you have questions or comments about the news letter, please send them to newletter@tiriasresearch.com. This is also the first time we’re using mailchimp to send out the newsletter, so let us know if there’re any problems, assuming you actually get this.

TIRIAS Research is a high-tech research and advisory firm, an independent third-party resource to high-tech companies. We provide custom research and advisory services on technologies, markets and ecosystems to a select group of technology industry leaders. Our Principal Analysts (Kevin Krewell, Jim McGregor, and Paul Teich,) have decades of in-depth expertise in silicon, software, and systems specification, design and deployment.

If you want to see our fully profiles and our mugs, they can be found here:
http://www.tiriasresearch.com/about/

Telstra launches World’s First Gigabit LTE Network
In conjunction with technology partners Ericsson, Netgear, and Qualcomm, Telstra demonstrated the world’s first gigabit LTE network that is now active in the Australian cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. According to Telstra, the gigabit LTE network will not only offer fast downlink and uplink speeds, but also enable the company to increase its overall network bandwidth and reduce the cost of delivering each bit of data.

Currently, the Netgear Nighthawk M1 mobile router is the only device that support gigabit LTE, but other smartphone and mobile devices based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and X16 modem are expected throughout 2017. In addition, many other carriers will be launching gigabit LTE support later this year as a stepping stone to 5G.

Jim McGregor tested the network and has a full account of his results coming out shortly in EE Times.

Qualcomm Intros X20 modem, Complete FR Front End solution
Qualcomm introduced a number of new products prior to of next week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. These new products are part of Qualcomm’s efforts to move smartphone technology forward and push download speeds to over 1 Gbps. In addition to its new Snapdragon X20 modem, which supports the latest cat 18 carrier aggregation to reach upwards of 1.2 Gbps, Like the Snapdragon 835, it will be built on Samsung’s 10nm FinFET technology, making it the industry’s first 10nm discrete modem. We expect to hear about Intel’s plans at MWC as well.

Qualcomm also announced that it is now able to provide a complete radio frequency front end (RFFE) solution for its Snapdragon modems and applications processors. RFFE builds on Qualcomm’s announcement last year that it had entered into a joint venture with TDK (to form RF360 Holdings Singapore PTE) to combine TDK’s capabilities in micro-acoustic radio-frequency (RF) filtering, packaging and module integration with Qualcomm’s RF components. The joint venture was a $3B transaction to address a market Qualcomm expects will be $18B by 2020.

The newest RF components in Qualcomm’s bag of chips is its first gallium arsenide (GaAs) power amplifier modules (QPA5460, QPA5461, QPA4360, and QPA4361). While GaAs has been around for decades, it’s not as easy a substrate to work with as silicon. As a result, Qualcomm Technologies has been adding in-house GaAs design capability. Qualcomm will still use CMOS for some power amplifiers (PA) as it’s less expensive and easier to add traditional computer logic. With this new QPA family, the company has all the unique RFFE technologies, including the PA, BAW, SAW and TC-SAW filters and filter modules, to implement a robust, leading edge RFFE solution for Gigabit LTE, LTE-Advanced and 4x4 MIMO. Compatible BAW filters available for designs requiring higher performance in high bands such as band 41 used by Sprint.

You can read more about it here:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/tiriasresearch/2017/02/22/qualcomm-adds-complete-rf-portfolio-paves-way-to-5g/

ARM acquires Mistbase and NextG-Com to offer Cellular Modems for IoT

Through a recent blog post, ARM made major announcements both in its efforts to enable new applications and to offer its first cellular modem. The first part of the announcement is that ARM acquired two companies, Mistbase (Sweden) and NextG-Com (UK), with expertise in cellular technology that are focused on developing NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) solutions. NB-IoT is a cellular standard introduced in 3GPP Release 13 as a low-power wide-area connectivity standard for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications, like monitoring remote sensors.

The second part of the announcement is that ARM is offering its first fully integrated NB-IoT cellular modem, based on the acquired technology and one of ARM’s latest power efficient microcontrollers (MCU). ARM began investing in wireless technology several years ago and offered its first Bluetooth 5 and IEEE 802.15.4 intellectual property (IP) blocks in 2016. Like NB-IoT, Bluetooth 5 and 802.15.4 wireless standards are well suited for low-power IoT applications. The new NB-IoT modem, called Cordio-N, is a complete integrated solution from the antenna to Layer 3 software.

You can read more about it here:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/tiriasresearch/2017/02/21/arm-acquires-mistbase-and-nextg-com-to-offer-cellular-modems-for-billions-of-iot-applications/

ARM releases a report on IoT in cooperation with The Economist
Also leading up to MWC, ARM released a report based on interviews with over 800 business leaders on how important IoT is to their business and plans for deployments. This is the second version of the report, the first was commissioned in 2013. As you might expect, IoT is moving from the planning stages into more deployments.
The report and comments from ARM can be found here: http://pages.arm.com/iot17.html

Samsung Semi drops new Exynos 9 before MWC
Just as we were wrapping up this issue, Samsung released details of the 10nm FinFET Exynos 8895 featuring octa-core CPU that competes directly with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. This includes four Samsung’s 2nd generation custom designed main CPU cores and four Cortex-A53 cores in big:little configuration. Samsung also has a new Coherent Interconnect (SCI) to support cache coherency between CPU complex and the GPU for Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) that enables faster calculations for fields such as AI and deep learning.

Samsung also integrates a new gigabit LTE modem that supports 5CA (Carrier Aggregation) for downlink and uplink speed of up to 150Mbps with 2CA. With the advanced features such as FD-MIMO and LBT for LAA, Exynos 8895 deliver the speed and reliability to keep you stay connected.

The GPU is ARM’s Mali-G71 with 20 graphic processing cores. And the new GPU also improved power efficiency for long lasting usage at a lower temperature for stressful operations like virtual reality (VR). A 4K video MFC (Multi-Format Codec) supports recording and playback of video contents at maximum resolution of 4K UHD at 120fps with the latest video codec including HEVC(H.265), H.264 and VP9. The ISP supports high resolution up to 28MP for each rear and front camera with advanced features such as Smart WDR and PDAF. Exynos 8895 features dual ISP that consists of one ISP dedicated for high quality and the other for low power. Security is provided by an enhanced security sub-system with a separate security processing unit with hardware crypto accelerator and flash memory protector. There’s also a VPU (Vision Processing Unit) which is designed for machine vision technology.

This is a monster chip. We don’t have the full speeds and feeds yet, nor product shipment dates (although the chip is reported to be in production). Going up against Qualcomm Snapdragon we can see that it lacks the more flexible Hexagon DSP of the Qualcomm part and it has no on-chip WiFi or Bluetooth. For a real world competitive throw down, we’ll have to wait until both chips are in phones we can compare.

A Deluge of news coming next week at Mobile World Congress
We expect to hear a lot more on additional IP for modems, new chips from Intel, MediaTek, and others, and more on 5G trials. There should be a boatload of new Android phones. In the next issue we’ll recount the highs and lows from the week in Barcelona.

As always, we encourage your feedback.
Kevin Krewell, Jim McGregor, Paul Teich
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