Northland Capital: CEVA’s DSP Processor to enter Apple’s 5G Modem

Apple is developing its own cellular modem that will be utilized in its 5G-compatible cellphones. The modem will be based on the DSP technology of the Israeli-based CEVA. Apple plann to bring the new modem to the market in the second half of 2022 along with the iPhone 13, and will be installed on all of the models that will follow it. This is according to a report by Gus Richard, an analyst at Northland Capital Markets.

Apple’s modem will likely be based on CEVA’s PentaG 5G platform, which provides full IP and algorithms needed for mobile 5G systems. PentaG contains specialized scalar and vector DSP processors, co-processors, AI processor, accelerators, software and other essential IP blocks, in a highly configurable and modular architecture. It supports all 5G bandwidths, including sub-6 GHz and millimeter waves (mmWave) bands, and allows a bit rate of up to 10Gbps.

Apple’s move began in July 2019, when it signed an agreement to acquire the majority of Intel’s phone modems division, for an estimated $1 billion. Upon completion of the transaction, all 2,200 employees of the division joined Apple. The deal came to fruition due to Intel’s decision to leave the 5G modems for smartphones business. Apple’s decision to build its own modem is a results of a bitter two-year legal dispute with Qualcomm that ended in a dissatisfying compromise.

CEVA is enjoying Intel’s Legacy

Intel’s cellular modems have been based on CEVA’s processor for many years, and in recent years CEVA has intermittently enjoyed and suffered from the changes made by Apple, when it switched between Intel’s and Qualcomm’s modems, and in some cases even split its production capacity between the two. But now the situation is different: Apple will not purchase a modem with CEVA inside – but will purchase the intellectual property directly from CEVA itself.

Richard analyzed CEVA’s sales mix, concluding that the fact that it was unaffected by the China-US trade war, as well as its growing presence in the 5G market, are advancing it toward a trajectory of growth. He therefore gave the company’s share a target price of $48 – compared to the price of $36.8 at which it is currently traded. Along with Apple, CEVA has several key Chinese customers, such as ZTE and Spreadtrum, which is its largest customer and whose sales are expected to rise in the third quarter of the year.

He estimates that next year Nokia will increase the production of 5G base-stations that include CEVA processors. He anticipates a 30%-50% increase in CEVA’s sales during the next 3-5 years in non-mobile fields, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and smart home products, smart TVs, smart light bulbs, control systems, etc. CEVA’s 2019 annual sales totaled $87 million. In the Q2 2020, sales grew by 28% compared to Q2 2019, to approximately $23.6 million.

Qualcomm and Siemens set up an Industrial 5G Network

Qualcomm Technologies and Siemens have setup a joint proof-of-concept project at the Siemens Automotive Test Center in Nuremberg, Germany, demonstrating the first private 5G standalone (SA) network in a real industrial environment using the 3.7-3.8GHz band. Qualcomm is providing the 5G test network and industrial test devices, and Siemens is supplying industrial end-devices such as automated guided vehicles (AGV), which are primarily used in the automotive industry.

The Qualcomm’s solution consists of a 5G standalone test network, a 5G core network and 5G base station with remote radio head. Siemens provided the actual industrial machines, including Simatic control systems and IO devices. “Combining our 5G connectivity capabilities with Siemens’ deep industry know-how will help us to make the smart industrial future a reality,” said Enrico Salvatori, Senior Vice President at Qualcomm Europe.

According to IHS report (The 5G Economy), manufacturing will garner almost $4.7 trillion in 5G-related sales enablement by 2035. The German Federal Network Agency has reserved a total bandwidth of 100 MHz from 3.7 GHz to 3.8 GHz for use on local industrial sites. German companies are thus able to rent part of this bandwidth on an annual basis and to make exclusive use of it on their own operating sites in a private 5G network whilst also providing optimum data protection. Siemens is using this principle to evaluate and test industrial protocols such as OPC UA and Profinet in its Automotive Showroom and Test Center together with wireless communication via 5G.

In another project, Qualcomm and Bosch Rexroth are demonstrating devices utilizing time-sensitive networking (TSN) technology while operating over a live 5G network, at the Smart Production Solutions (SPS) trade fair in Nuremberg, Germany. “Our joint demo allows visitors to view two industrial devices operating in a time-synchronized manner over a wireless connection – showing that the combination of TSN and 5G can enable precise synchronization without the need for a wired connection,” said Qualcomm.

 

Apple to Acquire Majority of Intel’s Smartphone Modem Business

Intel and Apple have signed an agreement for Apple to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. Approximately 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple, along with intellectual property, equipment and leases. The transaction, valued at $1 billion, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, including works council and other relevant consultations in certain jurisdictions.

Intel will retain the option to develop modems for non-smartphone applications, such as PCs, internet of things devices and autonomous vehicles. “This agreement enables us to focus on developing technology for the 5G network while retaining critical intellectual property and modem technology that our team has created,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan. “We will put our full effort into 5G where it most closely aligns with the needs of our global customer base.”

In April, 2019 Intel announced intention to exit the 5G smartphone modem business. “We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan.

Following the Apple-Intel announcement, CEVA’s shares in NASDAQ rose by 14%, to $28.99. CEVA from Israel provides the IP for the DSPs in Intel’s cellular modems. This is an important market for CEVA. It was well clear when its stock price had fell 13.6% in April, after Intel’s CEO revealed the exit plan from the smartphone modems business.

CEVA won a Major Licensing Agreement for its 5G IP

Photo above: Demonstration of CEVA PentaG 5G Platform IP, implemented on FPGA board

The licensor of signal processing platforms and artificial intelligence processors, CEVA from Herzliya, Israel, is entering the 5G with a “Significant new licensing agreement”. Gideon Wertheizer, Chief Executive Officer of CEVA, said this week following the company announced its Fourth Quarter Financial Results, the during the quarter, “we had one agreement with a company targeting the 5G market which was one of the largest agreements in the company’s history.”

Techtime has learned that the agreement is related to a dedicated processing platform for 5G base stations. Rumors indicates that the customer may be Ericsson or a big newcomer to the 5G market. Ceva is  already playing in this market: In March, 2018 it had announced that it is supporting Nokia in the development of its ReefShark baseband System-on-Chips (SoCs), set to be deployed for 4.9G and 5G wireless infrastructure.

Taking AI into 5G

Under the agreement, CEVA has adapted its widely-deployed CEVA-XC architecture framework to address the massive increase in signal processing complexity in multi-RAT (Radio Access Technology) network architectures. A month earlier, CEVA had introduced its new PentaG platform: A comprehensive 5G intellectual property (IP) platform for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). PentaG supports the full gamut of 5G eMBB use cases, including standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA), mmWave and sub-6 GHz.

It consists of Enhanced CEVA-XC4500 DSP with 5G ISA Extensions, 5G AI Processor to increases downlink data throughput by 20%, a fully-programmable co-processor incorporating 64-MAC units, designed to handle advanced channel estimation measurements, a Cluster of CEVA-X2 DSPs and Polar and LDPC accelerators are tuned to 5G NR eMBB channel requirements.

Artificial Intelligence is playing an important role in CEVA’s 5G strategy. The company said that its AI processor is using machine learning techniques to achieve optimal modem throughput. In January, 2019 it announced the opening of a new research and development facility in Bristol, United Kingdom, to strengthen its development of new digital signal processing and AI products.

Sales Down but Expectations rise

During the fourth quarter, CEVA completed 13 license agreements: Seven of the agreements were for CEVA DSP and AI platforms, and six were for CEVA connectivity IPs. Customers’ target markets for the licenses include 5G baseband processing, cellular IoT connectivity, advanced consumer and surveillance cameras, automotive connectivity, smart speakers, Bluetooth earbuds, Wi-Fi routers and other IoT devices.

Total revenue for 2018 was $77.9 million, a decrease of 11% compared to $87.5 million reported for 2017. Licensing and related revenue for 2018 was $40.4 million a decrease of 6% compared to $42.9 million in 2017. Royalty revenue for 2018 was $37.4 million –  a decrease of 16%, as compared to $44.6 million reported for 2017.

Gideon Wertheizer: “As we enter 2019, we expect the elevated inventories in handsets to add to the usual seasonal weakness in our near-term royalties. With that said, we do expect continued expansion at our non-handset and base station customers, along with a recovery in handsets in the later part of the year.”