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Ceva Telegraphs 5G Intent With XC12

April 4, 2017

Author: David Kanter

The move to 5G and the arrival of myriad new networked devices will increase demand for bandwidth. To meet this demand, infrastructure will employ more antennas and higher bit rates, which all require greater computational throughput. At the same time, latency requirements will tighten to enable heterogeneous networks, such as a combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum as well as responsive communication for automation.

To tackle these challenges, the new Ceva XC12 licensable DSP core takes a combined approach. For latency-sensitive tasks, such as coordinating multiple networks, it uses the scalar unit from its X4 DSP, which debuted last year. The XC12 pairs this unit with high-throughput vector units to handle the data plane. The vector units incorporate 128 multiply-accumulate (MAC) units that can perform 16-bit x 16-bit operations. The company supports floating-point data and uses a proprietary high-precision data format to increase the signal quality. Additionally, the XC12 includes a variety of new instructions that accelerate wireless algorithms.

Historically, Ceva DSPs have been strongest in client devices (e.g., smartphone modems), but the company has also won a design in at least one base-station ASIC, from Ericsson. The XC12’s lineage traces back to the earlier XC4410. Both devices offer 128 MAC units, twice as many as the XC4500. But infrastructure customers opted for the smaller XC4210, so the XC4410 never entered production.

The XC12 supersedes the XC4500 by delivering a 2–8x performance boost for important 5G tasks such as channel estimation, making it attractive for new wireless base stations and other infrastructure. Ceva is wagering that the upcoming transition to 5G will spur demand for the XC12’s greater performance. Because the new DSP has already chalked up a base-station win and a client-device win for 2018, this expectation seems reasonable.

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