Texas Instruments and NTT DoCoMo plan to jointly develop a single-chip product for mobile phones based on third-generation (3G) technology.
The product will combine TI's latest Omap2 applications processors with DoCoMo's WCDMA/UMTS (wideband code division multiple access/universal mobile telecommunications system) modem technology, said Jim Koutras, senior worldwide marketing manager for TI.
Chip designers generally follow one of two basic designs for mobile phones. More powerful ones tend to use two separate chips, an applications processor and a baseband modem as the basic building blocks. Others use a single chip that has an applications processor and a baseband processor integrated onto a single die.
The dual-chip approach is more powerful because applications can draw on two separate memory subsystems, but the single-chip design is more economical and can allow phone makers to reduce the size of devices, said Avner Goren, manager of TI's Omap marketing team.
TI makes two single-chip products for mobile phones, the Omap710 and 730 integrated chips, for GSM/GPRS technology. It also makes several dual-chip products.
UMTS/WCDMA is the next step along the evolutionary path for GSM/GPRS providers. Phones based on this technology should be able to download data from the network at speeds between 144kbps and 2mbps, depending on the conditions.
The first mobile phones based on TI and DoCoMo's products will not appear until the first half of 2006.
NTT DoCoMo also announced a similar agreement with Japan's Renesas Technology, which produces the SH series of processors. The carrier plans to invest about ¥7 billion (£34.5m) over three years in Renesas Technology to realise the development of a chip compatible with WCDMA and GSM/GPRS.
Intel plans to compete with TI for 3G customers with Hermon, its next-generation single-chip design. Hermon will be based on the Bulverde PXA270 applications processor and a UMTS/WCDMA modem. Phones based on Hermon will be available by the end of this year.
The first generation of Intel's single-chip mobile phone technology, the PXA800F chip, has been largely unsuccessful. The company has disclosed only two PXA800F customers, Maxon Telecom and Asustek Computer. Maxon's PXA800F was supposed to come out by the end of 2003, but it has yet to appear.
Asustek's PXA800F phone should be out by the end of this year, Intel said in February.
However, Intel's PXA family of applications processors has seen greater acceptance among mobile phone designers, and is seen as a strong competitor to TI's Omap processors. Intel does not sell a two-chip product, but sells the PXA family of processors as a stand-alone product.
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service