The first LoCosto single-chip cellphone chip from Texas Instruments, which went into volume production in the fourth quarter of 2006, is moving to 65-nm design rules soon. Bill Krenik, the chief technology officer at TI’s wireless terminals business unit, said 65-nm Ultra LoCosto chips are moving to sampling “within a matter of weeks.” Close on its heels is eCosto, a single-chip mid-range solution, another 65-nm chip moving to sampling soon. eCosto includes an entry-level Omap applications processor which supports video and other multi-media functions for the mid-range phone market.
While critics have argued that putting the digital baseband and the RF function on the same chip would compromise performance and relegate the single-chip integration concept to the low-end phones, TI has other ideas. Krenik argues that with several radios required on high-end phones, trying to implement multiple radios and air interfaces, Bluetooth, GPS, WiMax, and mobile TV with discrete RF components would bloat the size of the phone. With the LoCosto/eCosto approach, multiple RF units and even the Hollywood OFDM radio for mobile TV eventually can be placed on the same single-chip die.
“There is nothing keeping us out of the high end,” Krenik said during a presentation at the annual TI analysts meeting in Dallas, May 9th. By keeping the chip count down, future high-end versions “will enable higher performing ergonomic designs,” he said.
TI’s strategy for the mid- and high-end phones will bring in Omap processors, starting with the V1035 Omap this year. More importantly, all of the applications software written for Omap will work on eCosto, said Avner Goren, director of marketing for the cellular systems solutions unit.
With cellphone sales booming in China, India, Latin America, and other developing nations, LoCosto arrived on the market at the right time. Goren said by the end of 2007, fully half of TI’s shipments to the low-end tier will be LoCosto chips, and by the end of 2008 the “vast majority” of entry-level IC shipments will be single-chip solutions.
With the mid-range eCosto chips sampling this quarter, Goren said eCosto “will be in phones by 2008 and be in substantial volumes by the end of next year.”
Analysts engaged Krenik and Goren in spirited discussion about the merits of competing offerings. Infineon's eGoldradio single-chip solution is selling well, including in entry-level phones from Nokia, a TI stronghold of sorts. And Taiwan’s MediaTek has a bundled solution for entry-level phones that is used widely in China.
In part, TI is betting that users in the developing world will soon move up to feature-rich phones, asking for the same kinds of data and multimedia functions now commonplace in the Western nations, Korea, and Japan.
“We have a software story that our competitors don’t have,” Goren said. “We can take the ecosystem from the Omap world and spread that down to the low-cost world. That way, we can keep our ASPs up and offer the customers features and flexibility.”
About weQuest: weQuest's are written by G Dan Hutcheson, his career spans more than thirty years, in which he became a well-known as a visionary for helping companies make businesses out of technology. This includes hundreds of successful programs involving product development, positioning, and launch in Semiconductor, Technology, Medicine, Energy, Business, High Tech, Enviorntment, Electronics, healthcare and Business devisions.