Marvell rolls quad-core IC for 3G


Marvell rolls quad-core IC for 3G

Junko Yoshida   2/19/2013 9:00 AM EST

Marvell’s new single-chip quad-core processor is a low-cost 3G platform designed for both smartphones and tablets.
NEW YORK – Marvell is rolling out Tuesday (Feb. 19) a single-chip quad-core apps processor integrated with the company’s mature 3G cellular modems that include High Speed Packet Access Plus (HSPA+), Time division High Speed Packet Access Plus (TD-HSPA+) and Enhanced Data for GSM Environment (EDGE). The company’s much-anticipated quad-core apps/communication processor with LTE modems will be announced separately later this week.

Called PXA 1088, the combined apps processor/modem chip is based on a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7.

“We are running as fast as we can,” Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell, told EE Times, speaking of the company’s aggressive move to update its unified platform quickly from dual-core to quad-core, while offering it to the low-cost 3G smart-device market worldwide.

“This is the first quad-core ‘worldphone’ processor with advanced video and graphics capabilities,” she said. In addition to the PXA 1088 designed for automatic roaming on 3G networks around the world, Dai added that Marvell will later this week unveil a separate quad-core apps processor with LTE capabilities.

Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, believes Marvell’s LTE modem will be part of the recently announced BlackBerry Z10.

Noting that PXA 1088 leverages Marvel’s proven WCDMA and TD-SCDMA modem technology, Marvell’s Dai said that her company is positioning PXA 1088 to be “an affordable 3G platform designed for both smartphones and tablets.” Dai claimed that Marvell’s lead global customers already have its samples, and they will launch commercial products integrated with PXA 1088 in the first half of 2013.

The chip is being fabricated by using a 40-nm process, according to Dai.

Marvell’s WCDMA and TD-SCDMA modem technology is “field proven,” agreed Strauss.

He called Marvell “the market leader of TD-SCDMA com-processor (the modem and apps processor are in the same package) in China.”

Forward Concepts estimates that Marvell shipped some 17 million units in China in 2012 (see attached chart). 

“The new HSPA+ would put this in the ‘4G’ market in the West, but certainly it is not LTE,” Strauss added, clarifying that HSPA+ isn’t yet available in China, but WCDMA/3G is.

Source: Forward Concepts                                                                                 
Note: These are "com-processors" that include modem and application processor in the same package

Marvell’s PXA1088’s advanced apps processor technology allows an unprecedented user experience for multimedia and gaming applications with universal connectivity, according to Dai.

Marvell’s complete mobile platform solution includes Avastar 88W8777 WLAN + Bluetooth 4.0 + FM single-chip SoC and the L2000 GNSS Hybrid Location Processor, and an integrated power management and audio codec IC.


While Marvell’s Dai insists that the PXA1088 is “global,” the chip will be critical to the Chinese market where Marvell needs to defend its turf and compete against rivals there.

“The PXA1088 could help Marvell to stay ahead of MediaTek, which has a quad-core solution soon to be announced, Spreadtrum Communications, ST-Ericsson, and soon, Qualcomm in the China com-processor market,” observed Forward Concepts’ Strauss.

Strauss, however, made it clear that it’s not Marvell, but Spreadtrum who leads the "thin modem" TD-SCDMA market.

By thin modem, Strauss means a market without an on-board apps processor, and it is not covered in the Forward Concept’s pie chart above.

Marvell’s PXA1088 is backward pin-to-pin compatible with its dual-core single-chip Unified 3G Platform, PXA988/PXA986, enabling device partners to upgrade next-generation mobile devices to quad-core without any additional design cost.

Marvell will demonstrate the PXA1088 along with an apps/modem processor that includes LTE at the Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona.
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