Linley on Mobile: CSR/Sirf, UniFi-3, BCM2075, eCosto RIP

Linley on Mobile
Volume 1, Issue 3
February 10, 2009

Independent Analysis of Semiconductors for Mobile and Wireless

Editor: Linley Gwennap
Contributors: Joseph Byrne, Michael Stanford

In This Issue:

  • CSR Picks Up Sirf
  • CSR Advances in Wi-Fi
  • Broadcom Rolls GPS Combo
  • News in Brief


Get the latest information on Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS products targeting cell phones and other mobile devices with our new report, "A Guide to Mobile Connectivity Chips." For more information, check our web site.

CSR Picks Up Sirf

CSR, the market leader in Bluetooth, today announced plans to acquire Sirf, the second-leading GPS vendor. We believe this is an excellent acquisition. CSR's current GPS solution, based on technology acquired from Nordnav, is low in cost but not reliably accurate enough for navigation and some location-based services. This acquisition solves that problem. Sirf is the unquestioned technology leader in GPS, and it has a strong presence in markets complementary to CSR's: personal navigation devices (PNDs) and car navigation systems.

Sirf needed to be acquired, as it had been unable to expand beyond its single technology and was losing ground to chip vendors that are integrating GPS into baseband processors and connectivity chips. Furthermore, Broadcom has been clobbering Sirf on patent issues, raising questions about its viability as a supplier. The combined patent portfolio of CSR and Sirf will be strong enough to force Broadcom to settle the dispute.

Even paying an 80 percent premium over Sirf's current share price, CSR is getting an incredible bargain. The total cost of the deal is about $130 million, but Sirf has $100 million in cash and no debt, with revenue of $232 million in 2008. But CSR must move quickly to reduce Sirf's cost structure, which is far too large for a company with these revenues. Sirf's R&D staff of 500 will have to be slashed drastically. This acquisition greatly strengthens CSR's technology portfolio as it faces off against Broadcom and Texas Instruments in mobile connectivity. --Michael

Complete coverage of CSR and Sirf appears in our new report, " A Guide to Mobile Connectivity Chips."

CSR Advances in Wi-Fi

Last week, CSR announced its third-generation Wi-Fi family, known as UniFi-3 or the UF6000 family. The family consists of two products. The UF6026 focuses on 2.4GHz support with 802.11b/g/n protocols. For 802.11n, the chip supports STBC, doubling effective throughput compared with 802.11g. The more expensive UF6028 supports both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz across 802.11a/b/g/n, delivering increased performance. As both products are aimed at handsets, they support only single-antenna configurations but not MIMO. The UF6026 is currently sampling, with the UF6028 slated to follow later in the year.

The new chips are similar in feature set to the UF1000 family, which is currently in production in several handsets. This announcement moves the product line from 130nm to 65nm, however, delivering a sizable reduction in cost and power. The new chips are also smaller, fitting into a tiny 4mm package.

After years of work, CSR has finally delivered a viable and complete software stack for its Wi-Fi chips. As a result, the UF1000 is now gaining momentum in the handset market. With the UF6000, CSR has circled back and updated its hardware as well, delivering a state-of-the-art solution. Along with the Sirf acquisition (see above), this announcement shows that CSR is moving quickly to shore up the holes in its connectivity portfolio, positioning it to deliver complete solutions. --Linley

Complete coverage of CSR and UniFi-3 appears in our new report, " A Guide to Mobile Connectivity Chips."

Broadcom Rolls GPS Combo

Following its plan to announce a new combo chip every 60 days, Broadcom this week announced the BCM2075. As expected, the chip adds GPS capability to the previously announced BCM2049, which already included Bluetooth 2.1 and FM transmit/receive. The new chip, which recently began sampling, rolls in GPS technology from Global Locate, which Broadcom acquired in June 2007. Previously, this technology had been available only in standalone GPS chips from Broadcom and, under license, from Infineon.

Broadcom's GPS technology has been well proven, due mainly to the popularity of the Infineon's "Hammerhead," the market-leading GPS chip. Hammerhead is used in most TomTom PNDs, in several Sony Ericsson phones, and in the 3G iPhone, selling more than 70 million units to date.

With the BCM2075, Broadcom now combines the three most-popular connectivity technologies in one chip: Bluetooth, FM, and GPS. Both TI and CSR have already announced similar products, however, so Broadcom is already facing fierce competition. Versus TI, Broadcom can leverage the broader deployment of its Bluetooth solution. Versus CSR's current chip, Broadcom has a more accurate and proven GPS solution. --Linley

Complete coverage of the BCM2075 appears in our new report, " A Guide to Mobile Connectivity Chips."

News in Brief

At its recent earnings call, Texas Instruments admitted that it has given up on efforts to sell its standard baseband-processor business. Despite the popularity of products such as LoCosto-ULC and eCosto, the business was not attractive due to its lack of a 3G roadmap. Although 2G phones continue to comprise the majority of shipments, handset vendors are not interested in changing suppliers for this mature and declining technology. Thus, the only value of the business is as a cash cow, and TI decided to milk the cow rather than sell it. The company will cease all investment except what is required to support existing customers, which include Nokia, Motorola, and many smaller OEMs. This decision does not affect TI's much larger business supplying custom (ASIC) baseband processors. --Linley

Complete coverage of TI's baseband business appears in our report, " A Guide to Wireless Handset Processors."

Our new report, "A Guide to CPU Cores and Processor IP," will be available soon. Get up to speed on the newest licensable cores from ARM, MIPS, Tensilica, ARC, IBM, Ceva, Imagination, and others. For more information, check our web site.

About Linley on Mobile

Linley on Mobile is an electronic newsletter published once or twice per month by The Linley Group, a technology analysis and strategic consulting firm. Linley on Mobile will present our analysis of recent news regarding semiconductors for mobile and wireless. For more information on this and other topics, visit our web site.

Linley on Mobile is not affiliated with any outside vendors. Linley on Mobile is provided at no charge. We encourage you to forward this newsletter to colleagues who may benefit from receiving this information.

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Copyright 2009, The Linley Group


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