A reference design for an ultralow-cost 3G/HSDPA base station for use in a home or small office as an alternative to WiFi and unlicensed mobile access (UMA) has been developed by picoChip based in Bath, England. The PC8208 modem reference design for a 3G access point or “femtocell” base station supports HSDPA with a software upgrade to HSUPA. Such a system enables cellular operators to counter competitors offering UMA or voice-over-WiFi (VoWiFi), but — a crucial difference — allows customers to use existing standard cellular handsets.

The picoChip Node B software reference design provides a modem that is fully compliant to 3GPP Rel5 2005-06 (FDD) for four users with a 200 m range, and supports 7 Mbps high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA). The reference design includes all baseband processing (sample rate, chip rate and symbol rate operations), as well as MAC-hs scheduler, operations and management (OAM) functionality and protocol termination. It complements picoChip's other reference designs for advanced wireless systems, including the industry-standard solution for WiMAX base stations.

Mobile operators increasingly perceive a threat from the convergence of WiFi, VoIP and fixed telephony within the home, and are seeking a way to increase their share of the residential calls market. The femtocell or home base station supports cellular calls locally, and then uses broadband, typically DSL or cable modem, to carry traffic to the operator's core network. Crucially, as a standard 3G base station, it operates with all existing handsets rather than requiring customers to upgrade to expensive dual-mode devices. This provides cellular carriers with an effective means of countering the threat of VoIP, UMA or VoWiFi, according to picoChip. As the same handset is used for all calls, it improves customer loyalty and reduces churn, as barriers to changing operators increase. An additional benefit is that network coverage and capacity are increased in a cost-effective manner, exactly where they are most needed by the end user.

From the customer's perspective, a home base station offers the benefit of using a single mobile handset with a built-in personal phonebook for all calls, whether from home or elsewhere. This eliminates user frustration caused by changing between handsets with different interfaces and functionality.

For more information, visit www.picochip.com