Motorola Inc. and Lucent Technologies Inc. have formed an alliance to jointly develop next-generation digital signal processing technology, a move that is expected to jump-start third-generation mobile phone technology.
Motorola’s semiconductor segment and Lucent’s Microelectronics Group next quarter plan to create a joint design center, called Star Core, in Atlanta to develop advanced DSP core designs that will enable manufacturers to develop products like handheld devices for browsing the Internet and cellular phones with video capability. Specifications for third-generation technology include high-speed data rates and multimedia services.
“The new [DSP] technology will increase the horsepower of the cellular phone. Once you hit 3G technology, you need a lot more horsepower,” said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, a market research firm in Tempe, Ariz.
The two companies plan to jointly develop DSP cores, computing engines that can be used in several different DSP chips regardless of the intended applications. Both companies will separately develop and market fully designed DSPs based on this core. Motorola and Lucent will cross-license each other’s newest DSP cores, Motorola’s DSP56800 and the DSP16000 from Lucent. In addition, Lucent will license Motorola’s M-Core microcontroller core.
“It’s very clear that no single company can afford to bring the IPR and capability that our customers increasingly require. What we’re doing here is a forerunner for the rest of the industry,” said John Dickson, president of Lucent’s Microelectronics Group. “The quality and technology in DSPs will be significantly higher than what we could achieve if we were operating separately. The same software design will be used for a whole family of products. Both companies will benefit from having a richer portfolio.”
Strauss said DSP chips used in cellular phones are one of the most expensive components going into a handset. The alliance will allow for lower-cost DSP chips and accelerated development cycles for advanced products, including wireless handsets, base stations and pagers.
“This alliance will give third parties tools to support these chips, and gives [Lucent and Motorola] an opportunity to expand their market. Wireless is the biggest market for DSPs,” said Strauss. “We’re going to see Texas Instruments, the number-one supplier on the subscriber side, take a look at how it will adjust its strategy. We are talking about a very significant alliance … There has not been a second source in the DSP business in this decade.”
Strauss said Texas Instruments in 1997 held 45 percent of the DSP chip market, Lucent followed with 25 percent and Motorola and Analog Devices tied for third place with 12 percent each. Texas Instruments’ two largest wireless customers are Nokia Corp. and Ericsson Inc.
“Both believe it was the right thing to do, otherwise they would just have to keep trying to catch up with TI,” said Strauss.
Dr. James Boddie, Bell Labs Fellow and director of DSP technology development for Lucent, has been appointed executive director of the joint design center. Both companies expect to complete their first DSP core design by mid-1999.