Huawei rolls own baseband as LTE expands

July 20, 2011 // By Rick Merritt
China telecom giant Huawei Technologies is producing its own HSPA baseband silicon, according to a new teardown report by ABI Research. The discovery of the chip raises questions about how far Huawei's ambitions extend in basebands at a time when LTE networks are on the rise.

Huawei makes two wideband CDMA external modems, both sold as the E173. One version uses a Qualcomm MSM6290 HSPA chipset, the other uses a baseband designed by Huawei's HiSilicon division and both are subjects of ABI teardown reports.

Since the modem's release in late 2010, the Huawei HSPA baseband has appeared in two other products, ABI said.

"The question is: what portion of Huawei’s modems and handsets will shift to its internal solutions," said James Mielke, vice president of engineering at ABI. "The Huawei baseband does not use as high a shrink process technology as the Qualcomm, but the Huawei chip is considerably less expensive and that may be the driving force," he added.

The roadmap for Huawei's HSPA chip is unclear, but HSPA+ and LTE versions would be natural follow-ons. ABI said it currently tracks 28 commercial FD-LTE networks. No networks have gone live using TD-LTE, a variant currently being co-developed by partners including China Mobile and Qualcomm among others.

"A challenging issue to tackle will be the ability of LTE devices to support roaming across the various spectrum bands," said Aditya Kaul, who leads ABI's LTE research, "More industry collaboration is expected in the next few years as LTE achieves widespread adoption," he added.