PentaG-RAN IP Targets Base Stations
Ceva’s PentaG-RAN is a baseband IP block for cellular infrastructure. Packing multiple fixed-function units and two DSP types, it targets SoCs for RUs, DUs, small cells, and beam-forming chips.
Already supplying two generations of 5G basebands for user equipment, Ceva now offers one for the radio access network (RAN). Like PentaG2 for smartphones and low-data-rate cellular devices, PentaG-RAN integrates DSP cores with configurable accelerators. In addition, through the Intrinsix business it acquired last year, Ceva helps cellular-infrastructure customers design their base-station chips.
Unlike handset makers and other user-equipment OEMs, which buy standard 5G chips from companies such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, the major base-station OEMs develop their own baseband processors or heavily influence a design from a semiconductor supplier. Ceva, for example, has licensed its Ceva-XC DSPs to Nokia and ZTE. These two are likely among the customers with early access to PentaG-RAN, which is scheduled for general availability by year-end.
Although these companies may engage design-services vendors, they’re still baseband experts. Ceva enables them to differentiate their design through unique configurations and proprietary DSP code. At the same time, it reduces their costs by implementing nondifferentiating features. The challenge for Ceva is to avoid offering more of a design than buyers are comfortable outsourcing.
PentaG-RAN also targets customers that need greater design assistance. Interest in Open RAN is attracting new suppliers, particularly as network operators consider how to combine equipment from different vendors, thereby freeing them from the Nokia-Ericsson-Huawei oligopoly. Meanwhile, a hot small-cell market remains perennially just around the corner, drawing in other new suppliers like moths. Lacking the expertise of the Ericsson-Huawei-Nokia oligopoly, these customers would benefit from both a complete licensable baseband offering and services to help incorporate it into a chip.