Friday, December 28, 2007
The fourth part of my Interdigital series on Sramana Mitra's site.... Some of it is a re-cap of what I had written over three months ago here.
I concluded the last article in this series postulating that Interdigital will stand to gain not only from the licensing of essential patents to Apple but also from individual iPhone sales. To reason this out, let us take a quick look at the Infineon chipset in the current iPhone design-
The platform used was Infineon’s MP-EU. The platform itself supports UMTS (3G WCDMA FDD).
- Contrary to a myth, the current iPhone does not support 3G that can be enabled by a software switch. The chip used, SGOLD2-8876 is only capable of EDGE (a 2G enhancement). So, despite the platform’s capability, the iPhone is limited by the chips in it.
- MP-EU has Interdigital 3G protocol stack and baseband design and the King of Prussia-based Interdigital stands to get royalty for every 3G phone using the platform.
Based on this information, if Apple continues to use MP-EU for its next generation, upgrading its baseband chip alone to support UMTS, then Interdigital will immediately start to get per unit royalty. Of course, MP-EU does not support data-centric HSDPA which will give a better mobile internet experience. Infineon’s next generation chipset MP-EH supports HSDPA also and is covered under the 2006 expanded agreement with Interdigital. I think that MP-EH, along with S-GOLD3H, the HSDPA baseband solution that Infineon sampled last February is a good iPhone V2 candidate provided performance and interoperability issues are ironed out. There are at least two reasons that come to my mind when we seek to speculate on the heart of the next iPhone -
- Apple already has the MP-EU in the market and is testing it for stability and optimizing it for performance. The Marvell Wi-Fi solution had performance issues that were quickly ironed out. Similarly, Apple is conscious of the power consumption of the Wi-Fi chip and its effect on the total battery-life. I am guessing that the iPhone creators are already working to address such issues in the current platform. So, they are unlikely to prefer a new solution, at least in the short-term. In fact, in the absence of a stable HSDPA solution from Infineon, Apple may still opt to come out with just a WCDMA/UMTS version. This will require minimal changes to the current platform.
- The total cost of MP-EU and the 2 IFX chips in the iPhone is speculated at close to $16. Infineon can potentially offer Apple its 3G solution at a comparable cost (perhaps ~$20).
In summary, I speculate that Infineon will continue to be in the iPhone and therefore Interdigital also stands to gain substantially. In the sequel, I will take a quick look at my interpretation of Apple’s deal with Interdigital.