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3G CDMA chip samples produced

Texas Instruments and STMicroelectronics are producing samples of chips that will allow manufacturers to build third-generation mobile phones based on Code Division Multiple Access technology.

The chips are based on the EV-DV (Evolution-Data-Voice) standard that accelerates the bandwidth of CDMA mobile networks, said Joe Thome, business director for CDMA chipset products. They will allow mobile phone users to download applications or access data at speeds between 470Kbps (bits per second) and 1.7Mbps under real-world conditions.

Although there are no EV-DV networks in place as yet, Texas and STMicroelectronics are building the chips for phones that will be used with a pilot programme planned by South Korean wireless provider LG Telecom later this year.

Texas manufactured the TBB5160 digital baseband chip that serves as the chipset's modem as well as two transmit and receiver chips. STMicroelectronics built the power management chip. The entire package is designed specifically for mobile phones, and it will work alongside applications processors such as Texas' Omap, STMicroelectronics' Nomadik or Intel's XScale processors.

There are fewer CDMA networks worldwide compared with networks based on the leading standard, GSM/GPRS, but CDMA networks are strong in the US and dominant in South Korea.

UMTS/WCDMA (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System/Wideband CDMA) networks are the 3G standard of choice for the GSM/GPRS carriers, and are starting to roll out across Europe and the US after years of delays. Texas also manufactures UMTS/WCDMA chipsets, which allow peak data transfer speeds of about 2M bps under ideal conditions.

South Korean wireless providers have already launched CDMA2000 1x EV-DO (Evolution-Data-Only) networks as an improvement to existing CDMA2000 1x 3G service, but those networks can only transmit data packets, not voice signals, said Will Strauss, principal analyst with Forward Concepts.

The EV-DV standard is expected to replace the EV-DO standard eventually, because wireless carriers are not keen on having to set up separate voice and data channels on their networks, Strauss said.

Sprint has decided to wait for EV-DV phones and networking equipment before rolling out a 3G network, while Verizon Wireless has moved ahead with a 3G rollout based on the EV-DO standard.

Strauss said users are unlikely to see EV-DV networks in the US before at least 2007.

Qualcomm has also announced a mobile phone chipset that supports a number of 3G standards including EV-DV, EV-DO and UMTS/WCDMA, but samples of the MSM7600 product are not expected to ship until 2006.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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