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MIPS aims for Android telephony market

Feb 10, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 10 views

MIPS Technologies announced it will use Intrinsyc's RapidRIL software to offer 3.5G voice telephony on MIPS- and Android-based mobile devices, including smartphones. In two other announcements, MIPS said that mobile WiMAX chipmaker Beceem and 4G stack firm SySDSoft will help enable LTE and WiMAX on MIPS-based processors.

In consumer electronics, MIPS has primarily been a player in set-top boxes (STBs) and other, less glamorous embedded devices, but it now aims to enjoy some of the huge mobile market predominantly captured by ARM. While MIPS processors have been used as co-processors in 3G cellphones, MIPS has never supplied the chief application processor on a phone, as far as we know.

The partnership with mobile software firm Intrinsyc is of particular interest in that MIPS intends to leverage Intrinsyc's RapidRIL technology to enable 3.5G telephony on "MIPs for Android" mobile devices, including smartphones. Other targeted devices are said to include e-book readers, personal and automotive navigation devices, portable media players, mobile Internet devices (MIDs), and digital photo frames.

"Developing these software stacks is key to enabling our customers to bring mobile products to market fast," stated Art Swift, VP of marketing, MIPS Technologies, speaking of the Intrinsyc software. "Thanks to our 'Android on MIPS' initiative and MIPS Technologies' compelling performance/power consumption advantages, a wide range of companies will now be able to quickly and cost-effectively build enhanced 3G mobile functionality into their devices."

The companies offered no more details about the partnership, but say they will demo 3.5G telephony on a MIPS-based Android device at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Presumably, the vaguely defined 3.5G refers to 7.2Mbps download HSPA technology and other similar technologies. The 4G technology mentioned farther below in the other MIPS announcements relates to higher bandwidth LTE and WiMAX technologies.

MIPS helped support a port of Android to the MIPS architecture, a task that was completed last June, based on Embedded Alley's initial Android to MIPS port. (Embedded Alley was since acquired by Mentor Graphics.)  MIPS has been running with the Android theme ever since. At CES, MIPS demonstrated numerous Android-based IPTV STBs and related products   — primarily using Sigma Designs processors — from Western Mediabridge, KDDI Home Jinni, KatDC, and AllGo Systems.

Intrinsyc's RapidRIL

In December, Intrinsyc announced that it used RapidRIL to help Barnes & Noble develop the Android stack for the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader (pictured at right). Other Intrinsyc technology used for the project included the company's Connection Manager, Power Optimizer, Telephony Test Suite, and Remote Device Updater tools.

RapidRIL is said to accelerate Radio Interface Layer (RIL) development on connected devices with out-of-the-box modem support, says Intrinsyc. The Intrinsyc Telephony Test Suite, meanwhile, is claimed to be the only commercially available automated test suite available for Android-based devices.

Unfortunately for the venerable Vancouver-based embedded software firm, the Nook announcement coincided with a number of negative early reviews of the Nook. Considering the ongoing recession, this development is probably unrelated to the announcement this week that Intrinsyc was undergoing a management restructuring, after last week announcing a change in the board of directors.

Also today, Intrinsyc announced it will integrate Gypsii's social media and contextual advertising/coupon functionality into Intrinsyc's Destinator turn-by-turn navigation application for smartphones, currently available for Android and Windows Mobile. Users will be able to display contacts from other social networks while in map view, and then directly route to any of their social networks contacts to share information from their travels into their social networks, says the company.

MIPS partners on 4G

Today MIPS announced that Beceem, which designs 4G Mobile WiMAX chips, has licensed its MIPS32 4KEc synthesizable processor core for next-generation wireless networking products. Beceem uses MIPS cores in its Mobile WiMAX chips, and claims to be the 4G market leader, accounting for approximately 65 percent of the market.

The programmable 4KEc hard IP core, which forms the core (actually dual cores) of the NEC Electronics EMMA3SLP system-on-chip, also appears as a security processor in the new Syabas "Popbox" IP STB. It is not to be confused with the new Linux-ready M14K and Android-ready M14Kc 32-bit cores.

According to MIPS, the 4KEc core "gives MIPS licensees the flexibility to optimize applications for performance, size or power consumption, important considerations in WiMAX designs that need real-time performance with minimal battery usage and silicon area." The 65nm process 4KEc core is said to operate at up to a maximum frequency of 617MHz while consuming only 0.07 mW/MHz of power.

Stated Lars Johnsson, VP of marketing and business development for Beceem, "Beceem's chips are the benchmark for WiMAX devices in terms of performance, functionality, and feature integration, and we are excited to continue to leverage MIPS Technologies' low-power, high-performance processor cores and ecosystem to further extend our leadership in the mobile broadband semiconductor market."

Also today, MIPS and SySDSoft announced they are teaming to enable LTE on the MIPS 32-bit architecture. SySDSoft is working with MIPS Technologies to provide an optimized MIPS32 LTE protocol stack that MIPS licensees can use across the entire range of MIPS processor cores, say the companies. SySDSoft will initially port its stack to a MIPS32 24K processor core.

Stated Khaled Ismail, CEO, SySDSoft, "With our mobile WiMAX and LTE stacks, SySDSoft is uniquely positioned among 4G stack offerings. Leveraging our technology, we are confident that benchmarks will show the benefits of the MIPS architecture in terms of data compression, performance and channel utilization for 4G."

Background

MIPS' 4G partnership announcements with Beceem and SySDSoft target the expected boom in LTE and WiMAX "4G" technologies. The faster broadband cellular technology is needed to address the capacity crunch that is even now stressing current 3G networks with the profusion of mobile multimedia (as well as apps like Gypsii enhanced Destinator).

According to In-Stat, WiMAX chipset revenue will grow from $127 million in 2009 to $352 million in 2013, says MIPS. The research firm also estimates that Mobile WiMAX has all but displaced fixed WiMAX in new deployments. A Research and Markets study early last year projected that by 2012, there will be 45 million users of WiMAX-enabled mobile broadband devices, 11 million of which will also offer 3G or LTE connections in "various hybrid approaches." Meanwhile, LTE will grow slowly until 2012, when a rapid ramp-up will lead to 75 million units shipped in 2014, said the study. More recently, the trend appears to be toward leap-frogging WiMAX and other 3.5G connections straight to LTE.

MIPS Technologies' 64-bit cores, which are used by networking semiconductor firms such as Cavium (such as the Octeon II), have already appeared in femtocells, cellular basestations, and WiMAX, and will soon appear in upcoming LTE client and basestation designs, says MIPS.

Availability

At next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, MIPS Technologies and Intrinsyc plan to demonstrate 3.5G voice calls with audio and video playback on a MIPS-based Android platform. More information may be found at MIPS Technologies, here.


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