Texas Instruments Announces WiMax Portfolio

By Jeff Goldman

March 01, 2006

The chip company has new partners, and is skipping reference designs in favor of highly customizable DSP components.

This week, Texas Instruments made a series of announcements regarding its portfolio of WiMax chips. In addition to collaborations with ArrayComm and Mercury Computer Systems on the development of WiMax products, the company introduced a new line of digital and analog solutions for WiMax applications.

With ArrayComm, TI announced a collaboration to combine ArrayComm’s Network MIMO smart antenna technology with TI’s high-performance digital signal processors (DSPs) on a single reference design. The combined solution, the companies say, will provide operators with twice the data rates and four times the system coverage of current systems, at a reduced cost.

With Mercury Computer Systems, TI announced plans to develop the Mercury MTI-203 advanced mezzanine card (AMC) for WiMax applications. Greg Tiedemann, director of sales and marketing for Mercury’s Communications Computing Segment, says what makes the MTI-203 unique is the fact that it combines three TI DSPs and a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) on a single AMC module.

TI built on the announcements above by introducing plans for an end-to-end portfolio of WiMax products. TI marketing manager Ramesh Kumar says the aim is to enable the company’s existing system vendor customers to work towards WiMax. “We want to leverage our relationships with our customers and enable them to build cost-effective, high-performance solutions,” he says.

The challenge for system vendors lies in the fact that they need to be able to offer products for a wide range of technologies and form factors. “The amount of R&D that a system vendor has to invest in developing dedicated hardware and dedicated software would make it impossible for them to support all these applications,” Kumar says.

TI’s answer is to provide a solution that can work with a wide variety of technologies. “What we’re doing is, on the digital side, on the baseband side, as well as the analog RF side, providing one single platform that’s high performance, low power, and that’s programmable and flexible enough to support multiple applications, as well as scaling from pico base stations to macro base stations,” Kumar says.

That also allows the company’s legacy customers to continue to work with the tools they already know. “They’re using our DSPs today – they’re using our software tools today,” Kumar says. “So not only does this enable them to build future-proof products, it also allows them to leverage all their knowledge on TI DSPs and TI tools that they’re already using today.”

The company’s solution includes the following components:

  • Support for fixed and mobile wireless infrastructure applications in multiple frequency bands
  • The TMS320TCI6482 1GHz DSP, plus a WiMax PHY software library for the DSP platform
  • A full portfolio of RF products as well as data converters, up/down converters and amplifiers
  • Collaborations with vendors like ArrayComm and Mercury to develop reference designs

TI isn’t offering a full reference design itself, Kumar says, because that’s not what the system vendors need.

“What they’d like to see is an optimized set of standard software libraries which they can customize to their architecture, then add their own algorithms and ‘secret sauce,’ if you will, to build their own applications,” he says. “This really allows them to differentiate their product from the competition.”

That’s very different, Kumar says, from the complete reference designs that TI’s competitors are offering – which, he says, severely limits the final product’s functionality. “If the system vendor wants to only support one application, that’s fine, but trying to support a number of applications, which is what the leading system vendors who are our customers want to do, is hard to do with dedicated hardware and software,” he says.

Ultimately, Kumar believes TI is leveraging its own expertise as well as its established relationships with system vendors to help its clients build flexible and adaptable WiMax solutions.

“We’re providing our customers with all the necessary components that will enable them to quickly develop a very high-performance, cost-efficient and at the same time very flexible product,” he says.

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