9 Replies Latest reply: Oct 22, 2012 8:07 AM by Karthik Suryadevara RSS

Integrated Chip set vs Module?

Newbie

Hi All,

 

We are in the design phase for a new device, and we are trying to determine whether we should utilize an integrated module/chipset like something from Infineon or TI, or if we just use a standard module from Centurion, Telit, SIMCom, Ericsson, Sierra...

 

My limited understanding is that at scale, an integrated chip set will be a lower cost solution, but comes with design and certification challenges..

 

Can anyone here hit the high points on what the advantages, disadvantages of going this route are?  Also does anyone know of any other vendors besides Infineon that provide this type of technology?

 

Reggie

  • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
    Curtis Govan Expert

    Reggie,

     

    There are 4 options to consider in developing a new device:

     

    • An integrated device that supports the core functionality needed for your application.
      • Advantages - no certification costs, proven performance, shortest time to market
      • Disdavantages - higher per unit cost & limited flexibility in the functionality
      • Examples -
      • Typcial Deployment Range - 1 to 1000
      • Vendors - depends on application
    • An end product is a standalone wireless product that can be integrated with other hardware to form an integrated device.
      • Advantages - no certification costs, proven performance, short time to market
      • Disdavantages - per unit cost
      • Typcial Deployment Range - 1k to 10K
      • Vendor - MultiTech's Socket Modem www.multitech.com
    • An integration with a module
      • Advantages - lower per unit cost, flexibility in form factor, reduced operator certification (assuming the module is pre-certified by the operator)
      • Disadvantages - certification costs (PTCRB - $20K-40K), operator certification may be required (typically no cost)
      • Typical Deplotyment Volume - >10K
      • Vendors - Cinterion, Telit, Sierra Wireless, Ericsson, Motorola, Enfora, Simcom
    • An integration with a chipset
      • Advantages - lowest per unit cost & flexibility in form factor
      • Disadvantages - certification costs (PTCRB - $60-80k, Operator - up to $500k), long time to market 12-24 months & high level of wireless expertise is required for development
      • Typical Deployment Volume - 1 million+
      • Vendors - Infineon, Qualcomm, Marvel, MedioTek, Texas Instruments, ST Ericsson, Freescale

     

    As you can see, it really depends on where you are with your business model, but there are options to meet every need.

     

    Also, I highly recommend contacting your operator to find out their requirements.

     

    Post back if you have further questions.

     

    Good luck!

     

    Curtis

    • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
      Newbie

      Thanks Curtis..

       

      This is very helpful information. 

       

      A couple of follow on questions:

       

      Why is the operator certification cost so high with the integrated chip set path?

       

      Also if someone did not have the in-house expertise from a wireless perspective, would one of the chip set vendors be able to provide support?  Are there other design houses that we could contract with to get this done.

       

      Reggie

      • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
        Curtis Govan Expert

        Reggie,

         

        The operator costs vary depending on the operator.  The reason they are so high is the detail of testing required, in particular, network vendor interoperability testing.  This can take 6 months and cost $250k.  Then, there may be additional lab test requirements.

         

        The top chipset vendors also provide design services.  There are also chipset integrators like Neon Seven that offer design services.

         

        If you're not experienced with developing a wireless device, I would recommend using a consultant to evaluate and manage the project.  Given the myriad of nuances, it would be well worth it, particularly, for a chipset development.

         

        Curtis

        • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
          Newbie

           

           

          You forgot the biggest deal breaker: IP Licensing

           

          Plan on spending about $1M+ on licensing up front to go chip level.

          • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
            Newbie

            Dan,

             

            Can you elaborate on this?  How does this work?  Who would we need to pay IP to?

             

            R

            • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
              Newbie

              Sure Reggie.   Well, as with any technology someone owns the IP and you'll need a license to develop with it.  Most of the time its Qualcomm and you need to get a IP license to the technology you are trying to implement with (i.e. WCDMA) and the IP license usually requires a substantial up front cash investment (think millions) and/or a minimum order quantity.  Honestly, unless you are close to or in "cell phone volumes" don't even bother because by the time you subsidize the cost of the IP licensing, NRE for development, minimum orders, and everything else unless you are truly shipping 7 figure volumes you'll end up losing money.

               

              Our firm has been in this space for a decade.  90% of our new customers always want to start with the chipset level and 99.5% of them change their mind once they handle the due diligence.  I'll throw some ball park numbers at you to show you why:

               

              IP Licenses:  $1-$3 Million

              RF Certifications (Full FCC, PTCRB, then carrier certification): Approximately $1.3 Million

              Hardware Design NRE & Prototyping Costs: $300K-$1M depending on what you're trying to build.

               

              Out of the hundreds of projects we've worked on in the past 10 years, only two have ever truly gone to an integrated chipset (base band design.) Really, by going with an integrated chipset you are doing exactly what Cinterion, Telit, Wavecom, and the rest of them have done.  You are literally creating your own module and that gets really expensive really quick.   Also your time to market is a lot slower as all the certifications take a lot of time.  In order to go with an integrated chipset you need to have some very experienced engineers on staff or be willing to pay the NRE costs to sub out the work.

               

              Another issue is what type of integrated chipset are you looking at and is your run rate there to keep up with the end of life cycles because handset chipsets go EOL a lot quicker than other silicon.   All in all, unless you are ready to spend about $5 Million and the next 10 months dealing with headaches I'd stay away from an integrated chipset.

               

              If you still want to proceed with investigating base band, shoot me an email at ddaogaru@systemsonchip.com and I'll put you in contact with some people at Qualcomm that can help get you started. 

              • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
                Newbie

                Dan,

                 

                Thanks for the information.  This was very useful info.  Did not realize the cost would be so high!

                 

                R

                • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
                  Newbie

                  Not a problem.  Honestly, you're best bet to do things right in this industry when it comes to hardware and certifications is to find a reputable firm to handle it for you if you don't have an experienced engineering staff that has done "wireless" before.  Otherwise it gets REALLY expensive.  Your best bet is to talk to the module vendors and see who they recommend for the design work. Honestly, 80% of our business is correcting issues that only came up because the people designing the hardware haven't played in this space before and even larger design firms have contracted us in the past after failing certifications a couple times because they haven't played in this space before.  Doing it right the first time costs a lot less than fixing it 3 times. 

                   

                  Best Regards,

                   

                  Dan

  • Re: Integrated Chip set vs Module?
    Karthik Suryadevara Newbie

    Hi Reggie,

     

    If you are still considering chipsets/modules to make your next M2M design please do have a look at our chipsets and modules.

     

    http://www.redpinesignals.com/Products/Chipsets/index.html

    http://www.redpinesignals.com/Products/Modules/index.html

     

    Can discuss more on it if you are willing to know more about it.

     

    Thanks.

     

    Regards,

    Karthik

    karthik.s@redpinesignals.com