TI calls baseband a distraction, but is it?

November 11, 2011 // By Sylvie Barak
While Texas Instruments pushes forward quickly and aggressively with its OMAP mobile processor, some still wonder whether the firm's “strategic decision” to leave out baseband could come back to bite it.

While competing silicon vendors have rushed to integrate baseband onto their chips, TI has shied away from doing so, calling it a mere “distraction” and proclaiming itself glad to no longer be dealing with the connectivity side of the business.

“TI made a strategic decision in 2008 to phase out of the baseband segment and focus on two key Wireless growth areas: OMAP processors and wireless connectivity solutions,” said the firm’s Director of Strategic Marketing Avner Goren when confronted with the question.

“We continue to see proof that this was the right decision, especially as multimedia capabilities are innovating at twice the pace of access technology,” he said adding that this was especially true with the sheer pace of innovation in the industry, which he claimed mandated a more discrete approach in order to facilitate faster time-to-market.

Indeed, while new application processors tend to tape out every 9-12 months, new modems are on a slower cycle of 12-18 months, though LTE-Advanced may close the gap a little. Currently, however, this is typically the reason argued for keeping modems and processors on separate dice.

On the other hand, mobile chip giant Qualcomm, which does integrate modems onto its Snapdragon processors, has managed to keep pace with its rivals, largely debunking the naysayers.

Instead of integrating its own baseband technology, TI says it supports a range of access technologies which Goren claims allows the firm to integrate its platform with multiple standards from modem suppliers or OEMs with proprietary offerings.

Goren added that TI was also pushing chip-to-chip (C2C) interface technology which allows the removal of the modem DDR, purportedly resulting in memory cost and PCB footprint savings.

“We license C2C to major modem vendors, and have partnered with Arteris to widely deploy it,” he said, noting that TI had also actively supported the MIPI Alliance’s standardization of the Low Latency Interface (LLI), targeted for OMAP 5 integration.

While Goren’s defense seems