The Mobile World Congress ’14 in Barcelona begins next Monday, February 24th. You can expect to be overwhelmed with news releases describing a myriad of new chips, smartphones, tablets, gadgets, software and wireless service offerings. As the largest and most significant of all global wireless gatherings, the key benefit to both exhibitors and attendees is the networking that enables even the smallest companies to mingle with the big ones that may become their customers or even their future acquirers. Individuals will be able to scope out much of the extensive wireless ecosystem.
Some Things to Expect at MWC:
- Nokia is expected to introduce their “forked” Android cellphone as well as new Lumia & Asha devices.
- MediaTek will showcase their MT6595, 4G LTE octa-core smartphone SoC.
- Broadcom will showcase their mobile innovations for LTE Category 4.
- Intel will likely announce its first LTE cellphone modem socket.
- Qualcomm will continue to move the goalpost with its LTE-A Cat 6 Gobi 9×35 modem (with Anritsu demo).
- Lime Microsystems to demo its CMOS multi-standard/frequency single-chip LTE MIMO transceiver.
- Nujira to demonstrate full Envelope Tracking efficiency chips for TD-LTE PAs.
- Freescale will demo its small-cell base station chip offerings.
Advice for attendees:
I won’t be able to attend this MWC because of a family illness, but I can provide you with some pointers:
- Dress appropriately. This is not CES. Dark suits and ties are de rigueur. Anything less, you’ll stand out…the wrong way.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The new Fira Gran Via venue is huge and you’ll do a lot of walking.
- Since the few nearby hotels were sold out by mid-year, most of you will be arriving by train. You’ll likely have taken the Metro subway to the Plaza Espanya station where you changed to one of the trains…which are fewer and run less often than the Metro, so assume as much as a 30-minute delay between the two rail services. In addition, it’s a 3-block walk from the train to the venue (umbrella’s anyone?). Taxis and busses will be largely road-blocked by the heavy morning traffic (another 30-minute delay).
- The Fira Gran Via has several exhibit halls which you are directed to travel between via a second-story bridge level. That requires an escalator trip up from one section, over the bridge level and down another escalator to the next hall. That wastes a lot of time and shoe leather. The secret is to avoid the escalators when possible by staying on the exhibit floor level and walking directly to the adjacent hall (but the signs for that are not obvious).
- Bring twice as many business cards as you were planning. You’ll need a lot of them.
Antcor First to Market with 802.11ah IP
The growing market for IoT (Internet of Things) will be significantly enhanced by the new 802.11ah 900 MHz Wi-Fi technology and Antcor S.A. is the first out of the gate to offer a licensable solution for chip rollout. The new Wi-Fi version, operating at a lower frequency than current (2.4 & 5GHz) Wi-Fi, will have greater distance reach and is aimed at offering throughputs of 150 kbps with a 1 MHz band to as much as 40 Mbps over an 8 MHz band. The vision is that the technology will be ideal for sensor and control functions and it’s likely that chips sporting the new Wi-Fi technology will be competing with ZigBee and Z-wave in home and building automation. This offering will add to Antcor’s existing Proteus™ 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac IP portfolio.
Cirrus Logic: The Smartphone Audio Powerhouse
Last week, I was invited to visit Cirrus Logic’s audio chip development center in Mesa, Arizona that’s only a dozen blocks from my location. Although Cirrus is proud of their new headquarters in Austin, Texas, they were wise to acquire Acoustic Technologies Inc. that originally developed the impressive Mesa site. For those who don’t know, Cirrus is arguably the number one provider of noise cancelling audio chips to the smartphone market and their 2013 total audio revenue was $725 million (the general industry consensus is that Apple is their prime customer). Last week, and the reason for my visit, Cirrus introduced the new ultra-low power CS48LV12/13 voice processors with integrated SoundClear® technology that is said to improve voice recognition accuracy in smartphones, tablets and wearables by improving voice quality, eliminating background noise and delivering clear communications in any environment. The ultra-low power is through their own DSP engine that was originally employed in the hearing aid industry, and it appears to be “a good horse to ride.”
3iLogic-Designs Fields Speech Recognition IP Core
From an IP licensing standpoint, 3iLogic-Designs has Introduced its SimSim™ IP core, claimed to be “the world’s first, full-featured, embedded speech recognition IP core,” enabling voice-activated user interfaces for consumer devices. In a 28nm LP process, the company claims that voice activity detection of its 135K-gate design requires only 100 kHz for processing and consumes 5µW of power. Speech recognition for a 100-command vocabulary is said to require only 50MHz for processing and consumes 2.5mW of power.
Benchmarking Smartphones (Continued)
In my December newsletter, working with my colleagues at EEMBC, I shared benchmarking information on the most popular Android-based smartphones based on their free AndEBench™ benchmarking program for application processors. This time around, we thought it would be useful to show the 10 highest performance smartphones.
Note that not a single one of these top performers is in the top 10 list of most popular devices (out of the more than 4000 devices listed on EEMBC’s website). Again, the table indicates the apps processors in those phones and their respective benchmark scores (how many times the benchmark loops in a second). Details on the methodology are on EEMBC’s website here. You can benchmark your own Android cellphone by downloading AndEBench here.
Needless to say, the top performance of Coolpad’s F1 smartphone is due to the MediaTek MT6592, the world’s first octa-core SoC in a mobile device. Coolpad’s “Great God F1” Smartphone based on MediaTek’s MT5692 (also an octa-core) retails in China for the amazing price of $146. The Great God F1 runs on TD-SCDMA and GSM networks, so it won’t be marketed outside of China. Note that Coolpad’s 8736 LTE/TD-SCDMA smartphone for China Mobile is said to be retailing in the $500 neighborhood, so don’t panic.
As always, I encourage your feedback.
President & Principal Analyst