Qualcomm releases chip for small business and neighbourhood cells

Qualcomm has chosen Small Cells World Summit to launch a new version of its small cell chip family - the FSM90xx - designed for small business and "neighbourhood" applications.

Qualcomm, which has been winning small cell design business with the likes of ip.access, Alcatel-Lucent and (reportedly though unconfirmed as yet) Cisco with its FSM99xx chipset, has released a cost-reduced version that it is calling the FSM90xx.

Nicholas Karter, VP Product Management at Qualcomm Atheros, said that the new chip is a cost-reduced version Qualcomm, which has been winning small cell design business with the likes of ip.access, Alcatel-Lucent and (reportedly though unconfirmed publicly as yet)Cisco with its FSM99xx chipset, has released a cost-reduced version that it is calling the FSM90xx.

Karter said that the new chip provides LTE and WiFi functionality for cells with at about the 100mW power level and that support 16 simultaneous users. The target market is manufacturers of small cells suited for small businesses, but also for “neighbourhood” small cells – a term that only Qualcomm tends to use but can be understood to delineate a cross between public access metro cells and dedicated small cells that support a few simultaneous users only. The neighbourhood cell enables public access, but is smaller than a metro or pico cell. Deployment of many of these cells in areas of high capacity demand would require tight HetNet integration, supported by Qualcomm’s UltraSON technology and LTE-A features such as eICIC and FeICIC. It’s a market Qualcomm would like to build, as it suits its chip development which leverages device chip capabilities and is better matched for the smaller end of the small cell market.

The focus is to allow OEMs to optimise the entire BOM for smaller small cells with a 28nm four layer design that Qualcomm claims offers superior power performance, integrated SON [UltraSON], its IPQ processing engine, hardware accelerators and is compatible with software that partners have already developed for builds on the 99xx series.

The FSM90xx SoCs are expected to sample in the second half of 2014, Qualcomm said.

Karter said that other base station system chip vendors that have tried to enter the small cell market have found it difficult.

“It’s not a clean P&L,” he said. “It takes a lot of money to build these [small cell] chips as a standalone business case.”

Qualcomm’s stated advantage is that it can leverage developments for its device chipsets and modems, especially in relation to RF technology. That means if you want to know where the big Q’s small cell designs are heading, it’s worth looking at its work in the device space. (See more on Qualcomm’s network chip development here )

The company will continue to leverage its very aggressive mobile device development for its small cell base station products, Karter confirmed.

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