Picochip has commenced volume production of the PC333, a basestation-on-a-chip solution. The PC333 is the only system-on-a-chip (SoC) currently available for the new breed of “small cell” and “metro cell” basestations.

The PC333 integrates an optimized silicon implementation and robust software into a complete system, and is currently being deployed by carriers in Europe, America, and Asia - making Picochip the only company currently shipping a small-cell basestation-on-a-chip. PicoChip believes that this approach delivers capacity and coverage exactly where operators need it: in areas where deploying a macrocell would be impractical or too expensive, and in busy city centers, train stations and business districts.

In particular, small cells allow carriers to serve the rapidly growing demand for data services. Operators face explosive growth in data traffic, which is doubling every year according to Cisco, with a 1000 times increase by 2020. Optimized small cell basestations use femtocell technology and SoCs to increase data capacity cost-effectively.

“Carriers urgently need more capacity,” commented Caroline Gabriel, research director of Rethink Research. “Operator-deployed small-cells enabled with femto technology benefit from the economies of scale gained from the residential femtocell market, field-proven modems and plug-and-play provisioning to reduce both CapEx (capital expenditures) and OpEx (operational expenditures).”

Expressly designed for high-performance small cell applications, the PC333 has a higher specification than any other femtocell chip today. It supports up to 32 simultaneous channels in a single device, and two devices can be cascaded to make a 64-channel system. Picochip’s smartSignaling technology allows the PC333 basestation-on-a-chip to support a dramatically larger number of connected smartphones. The PC333 is the only femtocell chip to support Release 8 HSPA+ (42 Mbits/s downlink, 11 Mbits/s uplink), local area basestation (LABS) performance, together with features including soft handover, receive diversity, and MIMO.

The PC333 can operate as a femtocell, with integrated RNC and Iuh interface, or as a classical picocell with Iub interface; in both cases it uses Picochip’s field-proven, robust PHY. The product runs on a 700-MHz ARM chip with TrustZone and variety of specialized hardware features for security. It sampled to lead customers in 3Q2010 and is now generally available.

The device is part of the industry’s widest range of SoCs for small-cell access points, according to the company. These range from optimized devices for high-volume, cost-sensitive residential applications, that enable new form factors such as USB femtocells, through enterprise-grade high-performance products, to fully featured public access basestation devices.