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Infineon (Part 3): Holes In Wireless Portfolio

Posted on Saturday, Oct 3rd 2009

By Guest Author Nalini Kumar Muppala

In the previous post, we looked at Infineon’s strengths in wireless. However, Infineon’s portfolio is still incomplete in the area of connectivity solutions, which are playing a major role in the convergence trend.

Infineon remains a minor player in Bluetooth. Infineon lacks much of the IP related to connectivity solutions. Infineon’s Bluetooth and GPS solutions use third-party software stacks. As a result, Infineon does not offer any combo chips for connectivity. There are none promised in the future, either. Most other major vendors offer combo solutions that provide space and power consumption savings.

After Broadcom acquired Global Locate, Infineon had to look elsewhere to offer a GPS solution. The company now partners with Epson to offer a GPS/A-GPS solution. Xposys integrates Epson’s GPS expertise with Infineon’s renowned RF know-how. Xposys has been winning praise for its higher sensitivity and lower power consumption. However, Xposys is a software-based GPS solution and its success depends on performance in the real world.

Lost Chance

Because Infineon’s deficiencies in connectivity extend beyond GPS, it could have partnered with the likes of Atheros with presence in multiple connectivity technologies. Infineon has near zero presence in the fast-growing wireless LAN market. Infineon’s play in WLAN for mobile devices is limited to providing Low Noise Amplifiers and RF transceivers. Infineon’s earlierĀ plan to provide Atheros’s Wi-Fi solution alongside its baseband was not successful. This was bad execution considering that a similar approach by Qualcomm had worked, and Atheros’s Wi-Fi solution has been shipped in a multitude of dual mode 3G designs. Atheros provides solutions for all major connectivity options: Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. With their complementary portfolios, Atheros and Infineon would have made great partners. The combination would have had a complete portfolio except for an application processor. Alas, with Infineon partnering with Epson for GPS, such an alliance is unlikely now.

Application Processor

Another important piece of a mobile phone that is absent from Infineon’s portfolio is the application processor. Flash memory is the most expensive piece of silicon in a mobile phone. Where they are discrete parts, application processor is in a close race with baseband IC for the second spot on a BoM.

In the iPhone, its most popular design win to date, Infineon’s baseband processor and RF transceivers work in conjunction with Samsung’s (or is it Apple’s own?) application processor. Even if speculation of Apple working on a home-grown application processor proves to be false, Apple is unlikely to switch to a combination application processor+baseband processor approach anytime soon. Performance is at the heart of iPhone, not cost concerns. Infineon might be able to hang in there for a little longer.

Infineon could lose if Qualcomm’s efforts to have a piece of iPhone hardware were to bear fruit. It would be interesting to see if Qualcomm can entice Apple with an irresistible part. This is more likely with a combo communication processor, if Apple were to introduce a lower-priced, reduced performance model in the iPhone lineup. In the meantime, Infineon should partner with an application processor provider to be able to complete with other major players.

In sum, the lack of internal IP for complete connectivity and of an application processor will hurt Infineon’s chances of design wins. Partnerships are necessary to close the holes and provide complete platform solutions.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Infineon
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