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Intel licenses DSP

November 09, 2010 // Mark LaPedus

Intel licenses DSP

Is Intel Corp. re-entering the DSP business? In a major move, Intel has licensed Ceva Inc.'s digital signal processor (DSP) intellectual property (IP).


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Intel has licensed the CEVA-XC communication DSP. Ceva's CEVA-XC is a DSP designed specifically for 4G terminals and wireless infrastructure. It supports multiple air interfaces in software, including LTE, TD-LTE, WiMAX 16m, HSPA+, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, GSM and CDMA.

In the past, Intel attempted to enter the DSP arena. Several years ago, Intel was co-developing a line of DSPs with Analog Devices Inc. (ADI). But those efforts failed to bear fruit for Intel and the deal was quietly scrapped.

ADI disagreed and issued this statement: ''Intel and ADI did indeed embark on a joint venture, but it was not scrapped. Rather the partnership concluded quite successfully from ADIs perspective and yielded what ultimately became ADIs Blackfin processor architecture. Blackfin remains a successful processor family for Analog Devices and to date millions of units have shipped into a variety of end applications.''

Meanwhile, the Intel-Ceva deal has more questions than answers. ''Very few details were provided in the press release; however, we believe Intel plans to use the CEVA DSP core in future 4G wireless baseband chips,'' said Gary Mobley, an analyst with Benchmark.

''The agreement announced between Ceva and Intel is independent of Intels pending acquisition of Infineons baseband business, which already uses Cevas DSP engines,'' he said in a report. ''Intel, separate from Infineons baseband business, is not a significant player in the wireless baseband market. While Intel has been a big proponent of WiMax, Intel is not even a major player in WiMax basebands.''

What are Intel's future plans with the DSP? ''Intel will most likely utilize the licensed CEVA-XC core for LTE (Long-Term Evolution) baseband chip development, and perhaps, future versions of WiMax basebands,'' he said. ''While Intel is a great company to announce as a licensee, Intels track record in cellular baseband product development has been spotty. Accordingly, independent of the acquisition of Infineons baseband business, Intels has not demonstrated that they can be a significant royalty contributor to Ceva.''

In September, Ceva introduced the CEVA-X1643, a 1-GHz DSP core designed to boost overall chip performance for a broad range of applications including wireline and wireless communications, surveillance, portable multimedia and more. The CEVA-X1643 is the latest family member of the widely used CEVA-X DSP architecture, which has been licensed by more than 25 customers and shipped in over 100 million devices to date.

Last month, Ceva introduced the CEVA-XC323, a high performance vector DSP for 4G wireless infrastructure applications. The CEVA-XC323 delivers up to fourfold performance improvement in wireless infrastructure applications compared to incumbent infrastructure VLIW DSPs, such as those offered by Texas Instruments Inc. The CEVA-XC323 is already in design with a wireless infrastructure vendor for 4G Software Defined Radio (SDR) base-station applications.

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