Motorola will help wireless infrastructure suppliers build products at lower cost and with more flexibility through software and hardware, the company announced this week at its Smart Networks Developer Forum in Dallas.
The network equipment company launched Reconfigurable Compute Fabric (RCF), an alternative to application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) for processing the data coming into wireless base stations from antennas. RCF chips are designed to sit on the front lines of base stations, where data pours in quickly from antennas.
System makers typically use ASICs to handle the high volume of computations required for this job, said Arif Ahmed, strategic marketing manager for Motorola's radio frequency and digital signal processor (DSP) division. ASICs are relatively inexpensive but typically cannot be reprogrammed to do new things or handle new protocols. RCF chips will be nearly as inexpensive as ASICs but will be much more flexible, he said.
There are three major standards for third-generation (3G) mobile data, Ahmed said, Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), CDMA2000 and Time Division Synchronous CDMA. Makers of base stations that want to be able to supply all types of networks now would have to develop three different ASICs, he said. With RCF, they could use the same hardware and program it differently for the various standards. RCF chips could also be updated to support new capabilities, such as "smart antenna" technology for reducing call interference.
The RCF chips will be fully programmable in C and assembly languages.
Motorola DSPs and RCF chips together will be able to perform all elements of 2.5G and 3G baseband processing, according to the company. They also can work with Motorola PowerPC processors in base stations that communicate with mobile devices and control the communication, Ahmed said.
Specific RCF products will be launched at Motorola's Smart Networks Developer Forum Europe in June.
Motorola has also announced its Smart Wireless Network Interface (WNI) version 1.1. This software package for its programmable network processing units (NPUs) is intended specifically for deploying them in wireless infrastructure systems.
WNI 1.1, which will be released on Thursday, is the first fully debugged, product-quality version of WNI. A reference version of the software has been out since September 2002. WNI is compatible with C-Ware Software Toolset version 2.2, a software development kit for building applications for Motorola NPUs.