How to look for IDCC in 3G iPhone?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The 3G iPhone is expected to launch soon at the WWDC. One of the primary component winners likely is Infineon. The company’s cellular chipset is expected to drive the iPhone. As we wait for the teardown, I was asked by a good friend how we would know if IDCC is in the iPhone. He specifically wanted me to address the issue with respect to the latest IFX 3G product announcements. Here is my take on it.

Firstly, IDCC will get licensing fees from Apple as per agreements signed last year. The agreement covers 2G and 3G iPhones to be sold in the near future. So, irrespective of whose 3G components are in the iPhone, IDCC gets money from Apple.

Secondly, there will be money coming if Infineon’s 3G baseband is in the iPhone. In light of the recent product announcements by Infineon, I need to be careful when I make that statement. So, let me step back and reflect on the impending 3G iPhone. I wrote in the past that I expect to see the MP-EH platform with the S-GOLD3H baseband chip in the 3G iPhone. The company has rechristened its products since. The HSDPA capable MP-EH platform is now the XMM 6080 while its 3G baseband chip - PMB8878 - previously known as the S-GOLD-3H (H indicating HSDPA capability) is now the X-GOLD 608. Read more on this subject here and here.

Further, the 3G software stack that will be used in the MP-EH/S-GOLD3H combination was jointly developed by InterDigital and Infineon’s subsidiary Comneon. So, IDCC will get per-unit royalty from Infineon for use of the stack. While the software collaboration is public, I am inclined to speculate based on recent modem performance data that IFX 3G chips use some baseband receiver design IP from IDCC. This can be an additional source of per-unit royalty for IDCC.

Recently, Infineon announced an array of X-GOLD61x HSDPA/HSUPA products that drastically reduce on power and space apart from catering to multiple phone market segments. Furthermore, the company also announced specifically that the stack for the X-GOLD61x solutions is internally developed. While this announcement gives more design control to Infineon, it implies that IDCC will not receive per-unit royalties for the software stack on the 61x series. On the other hand, I am still bullish (read speculation) about the use of IDCC’s physical layer receiver IP in all of Infineon’s 3G offerings. Also, while I think these new products are part of Infineon's push to hold on to Apple for future designs in the face of increasing competition, I would be greatly surprised if I see any of these 61x chips in the first 3G iPhone.

In summary, look to see if the iPhone teardown reveals Infineon’s PMB8878/X-GOLD 608/S-GOLD-3H baseband. So, the best case scenario for IDCC is for the iPhone to have a heart of Gold! Even otherwise, the King of Prussia-based company will gain from Apple’s licensing fees.

[Long IDCC at the time of writing]

Posted by Vijay Nagarajan at 11:44 PM  

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