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Handhelds Hardware

Single-Chip GSM Phone on Virtual Horizon? 138

An anonymous reader writes "There's still the alphabet soup and corporate conflicts regarding cell phone standards in the U.S. but... there might be some hope for a single-chip GSM phone, which might open up some interesting possibilities."
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Single-Chip GSM Phone on Virtual Horizon?

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  • When will be seeing some of this technologu translated into Cumputer HardWare. I am Sure That I am not the only person who would love to see an integrated cpu/memory/GPU/etc on one chip.

    (granted Nvidia's Nforce technolgy is getting starting to some of these functions, I am seeking something on a grander scale)
    • I am Sure That I am not the only person who would love to see an integrated cpu/memory/GPU/etc on one chip

      Why would you want a pc that you couldn't upgrade the memory or video on? Or end up paying to disable what you paid for originally? What you mention would be fine for your home pc drone or specialized use (PVR comes to mind), but as a chip for the cognoscenti, I can't see it flying.
    • That's a slightly (actually its a rather large) difference in scale and technologies you're talking about. And how would one upgrade the individual components? It might be useful for handhelds and thin webpads though - still its rather limiting in that regard which will likely cause any experiments in this direction to remove themselves from the marketplace.

      Now integration of common features which don't require upgrading (Firewire, USB1/USB2, Ethernet, 6 channel sound) is interesting and worthwhile, which is why the new southbridges all do some or all of this.
    • IMHO, I wouldn't want to see that unless it was on the very low end of the computer market. I like my parts compartmentalized. If my video card goes out, I don't have to get a new cpu/gpu/ram at what is likely to be an increased cost. It is worth noting thought that you can currently purchase many motherboards that have a soundcard and video card (that leeches of your memory) built in. I have had bad experiances with such combined units (bad stability, performance). If it is done right, they could change my mind, but it would have to be a quallity piece of hardware that performs well and is either cheap enough to buy a new one when I want to upgrade, then I might consider it.
    • It's called Systom on Chip (SoC). Look into it []
  • the "value" of a single chip GSM phone comes from size, cost and/or energy consumption savings? That other then those, nothing as such would be functionally different?

    By the way, what are the "passives" shown in the first image? They are not mentioned in the article. The single chip has 25 passives? Do we want that? What does that mean?

    • if you had 25 aggressives would you buy it then? mwahahaha...sorry couldnt pass that one up...i know i know....*walks off in shame and commits suicide for stupid pointless jokes*...there goes karma
    • A passive component is one that does not require power- something like a resistor or a capacitor. It is particularly difficult to make decent-size capacitors on a computer chip, thus almost any system will have at least a handful of external passive compontents. But that's okay, since they are usually quite small (a few millimeters square).
    • Passives are the extra components external to the chips like capacitors and resistors.
    • Price is the big winner for manufacturers. Having a single chip solution would quickly drive the price of the phones (and other techno toys) down and facilitate the widespread move to GSM.

      I assume that by "interesting possibilities" he is referring to possibly being able to imbed the chip into other types of devices cheaply (I'm thinking of having a chip in each piece of furniture that you have to assemble so it'll phone home to let the manufacturer know how big of a klutz you are and how many screws are left over).
      • I didn't ask about "interesting possibilities". I just asked whether it would be "functionally different". It didn't seem like it would.

        As for having my furniture rat me out for not putting it together strictly following their cryptic instructions, I'm not ready to volunteer for that as of yet. And just imagine the airwaves pollution if all these new devices were phoning willy-nilly.

    • The "passives" refer to components that do not have to draw current - capacitors, resistors, filters, duplexers, etc. In particular, there are a variety of passives required to condition the RF transmit and receive paths.

      Keep in mind that though lower energy consumption in itself is not functionally different, it paves the way for integrating other components (bigger screen, camera, GPS, Bluetooth, etc...).

    • by Anonymous Coward
      A single chip phone?

      Won't it be really hard to use? You'd need a microscope and stylus to dial the tiny keypad, and how do you listen and talk at the same time?
    • Passives = discretes (Score:2, Informative)

      by hackshack ( 218460 )
      Passives are "dumb" components- resistors, capacitors, diodes, etc. This is in contrast to ICs, or chips. Less passive components are better... easier to design for, faster assembly, smaller board size, more energy efficiency, and less suppliers / stock to worry about.
    • EETimes has a sorter article [], and Comms design has a more in-depth article [] covering some of the problems TI may face.

      Most people use a 4 chip solution - with each chip's process suited for its use:

      - power management (high current)
      - baseband/applications processing (good routing)
      - memory (high density)
      - RF/IF plus power amp (high speed, high voltage)

      How expensive/feasable is it going to be to put a high-density ferroelectric EPROM memory along with SDRAM and a 6-volt RF power amp?
  • how many chips are now in phones? is a single chip a cost and power advantage?
  • I, too, was excited about GSM. I even went so far as too attempt to purchase a GSM Phone/PDA. Then I realized exactly how slowly and sparsely this was being rolled out across my service area. Looks like I will be stuck with TDMA for a while.

    The same problems seem to exist with cell phone technologies and broadband distribution. Yes GSM exists. Yes broadband exists. But when can EVERYONE get it EVERYWHERE? I am beginning to think NEVER!

    • ...I even went so far as too [sic (nice callback, eh?)] purchase a GSM Phone/PDA

      I went so far as to actually purchase one. Damn thing sucked. Of course, YMMV, but I had a Handspring Visor with that Springboard phone on it with Voicestream service. It looked like it'd be really neat to have all the functionality of a PDA with the functionality of a phone.

      Had the following problems with it...
      • Damn near impossible to dial, and no voice dial support. Trying to call someone while driving is a recipe for disaster.
      • Battery had a shorter lifetime than the average MTV band
      • Screen didn't light up on an incoming call making answering phone calls in the dark while driving a worse experience than most /.ers trying to perform a drunken no-look, one-handed bra removal
      The new ones look neat though.
    • Many GSM manufacturers and US operators are lobying teh FCC for more spectrum as we speak. Unfortunatly, guess who is using the spectrum? "I can't tell you who is using that band, National Security"
    • GSM, CDMA, TDMA, ... There are many standards. I'm not much of a radio engineer, but I'll bet I could come up with a different one that would work in a few days. (It would suck compared to the ones we have now) Who cares though, the point is the standard, the point is the phone works. I've used GSM, CDMA, and a couple other standards IT DIDN'T MATTER! Thats right, all the standards work. You the consumer does not need to care.

      Watch service areas. Look for features that you will use. Engineers could build a phone with all standards built in, if they wanted to. (tri-band GSM is common, as is dual band analog/digital) It turns out though, most places in the US that you travel either has coverage in all standards, or no coverage in any.

      I don't get why people care which standard their phone uses. That is something for the phone companies to worry about.


        Well, when you click here [] you see a damn good reason why GSM and why a global standard DOES MATTER.

        Granted, that the north american coverage might be a tad optimistic in rural areas, for the rest of the world (marked in dark blue) GSM works just damn fine.

    • All you have to do is live in one of the other 199 countries of the world. Us non-Americans have been used for years to carrying our GSM phones around the world with us and making phone calls wherever we are (except, of course, in the USA).

      Does anyone know why the USA insists on being different to the rest of humanity?? - it's not just phones, it's also the only country with its own paper sizes, it's the only country still using slugs and foot-poundals, and so on ...
  • If they can keep making them phone chips smaller and smaller, maybe someday someday we get 'em put into earrings & all look like Bajorans! (Bejorans?) (Bojorans?)

  • The wireless and embedded giant said the company has already managed to combine many of the digital and analog functions used by Bluetooth onto a single chip, the BRF6100, which it is sampling now.

    Yeah, but what do those big sleepy lugs know?
    Maybe they should've included a few elves and dwarves in their focus groups, and prehaps the odd orc or two...


  • Actually, the total number of chips on on GSM phone that would be usable is two... one chip for the phone functionality and the other chip is the SIM card.
  • USA != The World (Score:3, Informative)

    by halftrack ( 454203 ) <> on Friday September 06, 2002 @05:01PM (#4209230) Homepage
    Aargh ... Why are you being so difficult? Most western countries have agreed to adapt GPRS as a temporary standard before a UMTS-net is up and running. You are moving towards isolation regarding mobile technology, that isn't good. Not for you and not for the other 95.5% of the world population. (world PopClock [] and cia factbook [])
    • For the same reason Sony created the memory stick instead of using CF or Smart Media as their primary choice.

      It's all about who can patent the next big technology first and make billions off of it. It's not about compatibility with big companies (I realize Sony is based ultimately in Japan) it's about profits.

      And I don't want to sound rude, but DUH! It's only brought up on /. that America is just a flawed business now. Why even ask. No one that runs these companies reads this (If a head honcho from MS or Sony or somethin' is readin' this, I'm logged in under a friends user name)
    • I'm an American and I'm the first to admit that plenty of times Americans forget about or just don't care about the rest of the world (our leader worse than most). This is not the case for cell phones. Most people don't need a cell phone that works on multiple continents. If different standards are adopted in different countries, I don't think it's a big deal. We have different voltages and socket design, different TV standards and drive on different sides of the road, but things still work pretty well. If we've resisted the vastly superior metric system for about 200 years, we can probably hold out on GPRS. I would bet a dollar that we all end up with UMTS before too long.

  • At least we know what doesn't work, and go with that.
  • Now you can blame all the stupidity on a single chip.
  • With this chip, how long before a disposable phone? Seems to me that this is what that industry has been begging for.
  • Wow, that must make for a REALLY small phone. How the hell are we supposed to dial?! :)
  • I just got a cell phone last month, and it is GSM based.

    I am using Voicestream service with a new Samsung phone, works great.
  • Imagine the applications for this.

    You could put 'invisible' GSM 'phones' into lots of things. Shoes. Coats. etc. Now you can be spied on with greater efficiency.
  • by JakiChan ( 141719 ) on Friday September 06, 2002 @10:14PM (#4210692)
    If you look at the history of telephony in the US you can understand why it has evolved the way it has compared to Europe.

    First of all, land lines are significantly cheaper in the US than in Europe. And the phone companies are required to bring a line to your MPOE. There are places that people live in europe where you still can't get a land line, even in 2002. We did the hard work for the last mile problem and some places in Europe haven't. And the high cost of landlines increased demand for the cheaper mobile services.

    Secondly, analog cell service had good coverage in the US when the first digital technologies came out. Maybe if the folks who had designed GSM had thought about how the US was gonna roll it out then they would have realized that the ability to fall back to analog would help the rollout. The folks at Qualcomm got it, as did the inventors of TDMA.

    The US is much less dense than europe in terms of cell users. Therefore building out a brand new network is expensive and the lack of density means that it's hard to recoup the cost of the towers in remote places. That makes it hard to roll out a technology that's backwards compatable.

    Don't get me wrong, I like GSM. I have a GSM phone. And I wish it was better rolled out here. Although I like the tech, I will be the first to admit that my TDMA phone gets much better coverage. I don't think that the existence of other formats is an attempt at American isolationism but rather a combination of the nature of America (a lot of sparse areas), the shortsightedness of GSM not offering the ability to speak analog, and the cost of upgrading vs. the need to make money.

    And by the way, if you're gonna bag on the US for not using GSM then don't forget that Japan, one of the worlds densest cell markets, doesn't use GSM either.
    • The main reason the USA is behind in cellular is that in the USA the cellphone numbers have been intermixed with the normal land-based ones, and therefore the operators could NOT charge the person initiating a call to a cellphone any more than to any other number, because the caller had no way to know he was calling a cellphone. In Europe, they made separate area codes for cellphones from day dot, so they could charge the caller, and so half the costs of the cellphone user are paid by people calling her, and so the bill is only half - for the outgoing calls.

      The whole thing with density is nonsense, Finland is far less dense than the USA, and is the leading cellular phone country. If there is a density issue at all, then it is urban density, and the USA is not short on that. To have a successful cellular service you do NOT need to serve every corver of Utah or Alaska, or northern lapland for that matter.

      • also, in finland there was an analog net as well.

        and landlines did go to pretty much everywhere electricity went, lack of landlines had pretty much no impact on the adaptation of cellular phones. the cheapness and the 'fairness' of the system however did(you know pretty much how much you'll be paying and don't pay for receiving magazine sellers calls, and the system is cheap enough for parents to buy phones for their kids too and still feed them).

        also, you can't carry a landline around the town, and pagers are just plain silly compared to having a phone of the same size).
  • Well, after telling its wireless customers for the past few weeks that it will be the first to offer GSM on the east coast of the US, ATT Wireless finally did it.

    Hmm. First of all not only was ATT not the first to use this technology on the east coast [Voicestream, Verizon, and even Nextel have been using it for quite some time now], but they are also trying to get people to pay $40 a month to use it...

    The story is here [].

    I personally use Nextel. They have the IDEN network, which is more secure than GSM and CDMA, but also support GSM [on certian phones] for use internationally.
    • Att is rolling out their west coast GPRS/GSM [] network in october, can't wait. {drool}

    • First, I'm a fan of GSM since it is an open standard made by the ETSI guys. Go to get an account and download the standards. I'm curious about your statement on saying IDEN is more secure than GSM or CDMA. IDEN is Radio and TDMA combined, and propietary. GSM & TDMA are not more secure than CDMA, as CDMA is base on code access using orthogonal functions. GSM and TDMA are somewhat similar in that they both provide multiple access to one channel through multiple time slots, hence being less secure. The cool thing about GSM (me favorite) and CDMA from a service provider is they actually have an upgrade path to 3G, TDMA does not or at least it won't be supported. GSM (circuit switched) goes to GPRS (packet switched) then to your choice of EDGE or WCDMA. Sim cards will be supported through the entire path. For the CDMA guys CDMA to CDMA 1X to CDMA2000, Qualcom earns royalties off this technology(me least favorite). From the service providers view it is cost effecient if they choose CDMA or GSM and stick with the upgrade path. Cingular & AT&T find themselves switching from TDMA to GSM, because no one is really providing an upgrade path for TDMA, although a standard was written for TDMA based 3G, no one will support it. By the way, Verizon is a CDMA based network and over 80% of the world uses GSM. IDEN who?
  • So now when I try to press 2 on my cell phone, instead of hitting 2 and 1 at the same time, now I'm going to press 2, 1, 3 and 6. Great.

    Hmm. Come to think of it, if I happen to be dialing the right number, that might come in handy!

  • Right now, the radio in a cell phone costs about $10 in parts cost. And the battery is more than half the phone weight. So we're approaching the limits of cheap and small already.

    The concept of doing RF processing in a chip that has digital electronics is scary, but apparently that's now possible without the noise from the digital circuitry wiping out the incoming signal.

  • If it's going to be all on a chip, how about handling all of the protocols - CDMA, TDMA, GSM - a programmable format would be the best, since there will ALWAYS be multiple formats to deal with....

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.