Nokia has announced a collaboration with Broadcom, to improve the development of its semiconductor technologies, including a new custom system-on-chip (SoC) processor, which will be integrated into Nokia’s “5G Powered by ReefShark” portfolio.
Nokia introduced the ReefShark (opens in new tab) line of 5G chipsets in January 2018, and they represented a leap forward in performance, size, and efficiency. ReefShark is a family of three products, though: one addresses the digital interface for LTE and 5G massive MIMO systems; one is an RFIC (Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit) front-end module/transceiver; and the last is a baseband processor, supporting the extra scale that 5G requires. All these ReefShark chipsets are based on 3GPP 5G standards, and use silicon chip designs.
It’s this use of silicon that makes Broadcom a natural partner for Nokia, as it specializes in silicon-based application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) technologies. Essentially, what this means is that Broadcom can design customized products, that will help its partners decrease time-to-market, and improve performance.
“The added performance brought by custom silicon solutions is crucial in realizing the capabilities and benefits of 5G and delivering on its requirements,” the announcement said. “While collaborating with Broadcom, Nokia continues to further expand its silicon capabilities and improve the penetration of ReefShark solutions in its AirScale radio access portfolio.”
Doubling-down on silicon chipsets
These new chipsets, designed in partnership with Broadcom, will be designed for use in Nokia’s AirScale radio access solution. And by deploying ReefShark-based products, Nokia says that operators will benefit from a “reduction in size and power consumption, while also seeing a boost to capacity and overall performance with a lower total cost of ownership”.
“This important collaboration highlights our continued commitment to developing our “5G Powered by ReefShark” chipset portfolio and ensures that our 5G solutions deliver a best-in-class performance to our customers,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “We are delighted to bring Broadcom’s silicon technology leadership and best-in-class ASIC capability to the table, allowing us to deliver a high performance and serve our customers’ needs as the demand for 5G services increases.”
The collaboration will expand the range of Nokia ReefShark chipsets available for 5G networking, and will improve the development of silicon-based solutions, whilst competitors, most notably Huawei, continue to look beyond silicon, investing in gallium nitride (GnA) as an alternative. (Silicon has an electron mobility of 1500 cm2/Vs, and gallium nitride has an electron mobility of 2000 cm2/Vs, giving GnA a distinct advantage for use in radio frequency (RF) components.)
“We are excited to partner with Nokia to develop and deploy highly integrated custom silicon solutions for 5G infrastructure,” said Frank Ostojic, SVP and General Manager of ASIC Products Division at Broadcom. “Nokia and Broadcom’s collaboration accelerates silicon innovation and enables operators and end users to realize the unprecedented benefits of 5G.”