Marvell announced Monday (Nov. 17) two new 64-bit mobile processors targeting the fast growing global LTE market: a new mobile SoC based on octa-cores for high performance smartphones and tablets and another that uses quad-cores for economy models.
Marvell hopes to leverage the company’s “mature LTE modem” in the new additions to its Armada mobile product family. While Qualcomm remains the dominant player in the global LTE market, able to dwarf its competitors’ incremental gains, Marvell’s quiet success with its LTE baseband business in China has gotten little notice.
Setting the record straight, Lu Chang, senior director of mobile business unit at Marvell, told EE Times that Marvell today has a 30% market share in China’s LTE market. Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, observed, “Marvell has very credible world-class smartphone chip technology. Now with a 64-bit application processor on the same die with their LTE/TD-SCDMA modem, it puts them ahead of MediaTek.” MediaTek’s current solution employs a separate LTE modem chip, not on the same die with the application processor, Strauss explained.
Marvell’s new mobile processor featuring eight ARM Cortex A53 cores, called Armada Mobile PXA1936, delivers five basebands. They include: Time Division Long-Term Evolution (TD-LTE), Frequency Division Duplexing Long Term Evolution (FDD-LTE), Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA), Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and Global Systems for Mobile (GSM).
Two unique features
Marvell’s octa-core 64-bit mobile processor offers “dedicated security processor” and an “integrated sensor hub,” said Marvell’s Chang. “Two features unique to our processor.”
Both are important, according to Marvell. Its dedicated security processor is critical for mobile payment, and the company’s PXA1936 low-power sensor hub technology delivers “unprecedented sensor fusion capabilities.”
While the 64-bit octa-core processor is expected to extend Marvell's success in the rapidly growing market for low-cost phones based on highly integrated processors, Marvell’s quad-core 64-bit PXA1908 is aimed at driving down the cost of LTE phones even further by using more pared-down, mainstream features.
For example, while the octa-core processor supports 1080p display and an improved image processor to support a 13- to 16-Megapixel camera, the quad-core processor is designed for 720p displays with image processing to support 8 to 13 Megapixels. Both PXA1936 and 1908 SoCs are integrated with GPS.
Asked what differentiates Marvell’s chips in the Armada family, Forward Concepts’ Strauss pointed out that Marvell’s LTE/TD-SCDMA modem gathers GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi all on the same die. “They have their own LTE RF transceiver chip, and their power management chip also includes integrated codec, battery fuel gauge, and camera flash control.”
Marvell’s “complete platform solution” (including SoC, RF transceiver, wireless combo, power management, and charger) results in better performance in the same tier, Chang explained.
Marvell’s LTE modem technology is already certified by a number of operators in the global market, including Verizon, AT&T and China Mobile. In Japan, Marvell’s device is being tested by NTT Docomo, according to Chang. Although Mavell’s five-mode 4G LTE processor does not support CDMA2000, Chang said that Marvell’s modem has been certified by Verizon in its LTE-only category.
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