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.

CEVA was awarded Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 for its IP Suite

CEVA’s RivieraWaves Wi-Fi 6 IP platform has become the world’s first Wi-Fi IP to achieve Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 Status from the Wi-Fi Alliance. The company said that it had already licensed Wi-Fi 6 IPs to multiple semiconductor companies and OEMs for upcoming products. “This certification provides our customers with a low risk path to integrating Wi-Fi 6 connectivity into their chip designs,” said Ange Aznar, GM of Wireless IoT at CEVA.

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program is based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard and represents the most demanding category of Wi-Fi standards: It is given to products and networks that provide the highest data rates, increased capacity, ability to run environments with many connected devices, improved power efficiency and to deliver exceptional end user experiences and wireless stability.

More than 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands –  Combined

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 is also extended to the 6GHz band, beyond the features and capabilities of regular Wi-Fi 6. It can utilize up to 14 additional 80MHz channels or 7 additional super-wide 160MHz channels in 6GHz for applications such as high-definition video streaming and virtual reality. In general, it brings almost 5 times of spectrum more than the current 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands –  combined.

CEVA offers a complete suite of Wi-Fi 6 IPs, spanning 1×1 20MHz for low power IoT devices through to MIMO 80/160MHz Wi-Fi 6 and 6E for high end products such as smartphones, smart TVs, access points and wireless infrastructure. Its RivieraWaves Wi-Fi IP family embeds the Wi-Fi connectivity into SoCs/ASSPs, for vast array of consumer devices including smartphones, tablets, cameras and smart home products.

It can also be used in a standalone single chip or integrated into a bigger System on Chip (SoC) such as application processor, baseband processor, or multistandard wireless combos. The software protocol stacks can be executed on any processor such as ARM, RISC-V, ARC, Andes and others.

CEVA's trade prices in NASDAQ during the last six months. Source: yahoo! finance
CEVA’s trade prices in NASDAQ during the last six months. Source: yahoo! finance

For CEVA, COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity: The need for remote control and communications push sales and bring new costumers. Total revenue for the second quarter of 2020 was $23.6 million, a 28% increase compared to the second quarter of 2019. “Our licensing activities continue to expand, and we are experiencing strong interest in particular for our 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and sensing technologies,” said the CEO Gideon Wertheizer in May 2020.

Earlier this month it announced what it calls “a monumental milestone”: CEVA-Dragonfly NB2 turnkey solution for NB-IoT IP had received full certification from Deutsche Telekom. This is the first and the only licensable NB-IoT IP to receive DT’s full certification. Uday Patil, Head of IoT Devices at Deutsche Telekom said: DT anticipates that licensees can reduce time-to-market and development costs for a successful deployment.”

CEVA Announced the Most Powerful DSP Architecture

Photo above: Block diagram of CEVA’s Gen4 CEVA-XC architecture

CEVA announced a new DSP architecture, Gen4 CEVA-XC, which the company sais “is the world’s most powerful DSP architecture, delivering unmatched performance for the complex parallel processing workloads required for 5G endpoints and Radio Access Networks (RAN), enterprise access points and other applications.”

The Gen4 CEVA-XC unifies the principles of scalar processing and vector processing, enabling two-times 8-way VLIW and up to an unprecedented 14,000 bits of data level parallelism. It incorporates a deep pipeline architecture enabling operating speeds of 1.8 GHz at a 7nm process node. This allows the processors to be dynamically reconfigured as either a wide SIMD machine, or to be divided into smaller simultaneous SIMD threads.

The Gen4 CEVA-XC architecture also features a novel memory subsystem, using 2048-bit memory bandwidth, with coherent, tightly-coupled memory to support efficient simultaneous multithreading and memory access. The first processor based on the Gen4 CEVA-XC architecture is the multicore CEVA-XC16. According to CEVA, “this is the fastest DSP ever made” .

Work Horse for 5G, Radar and LiDAR

It is targeted for use in different form factors of 5G RAN architectures, including Open RAN (O-RAN), Baseband Unit (BBU) aggregation as well as Wi-Fi and 5G enterprise access points. It also applicable to massive signal processing and AI workloads needed for base station operation.

Beside 5G, the XC16 processor is well adapted for other heavyduty computation workloads, such as Radar and LiDAR. CEVA indicated that it had already won the first costumer, using XC16 to develop a new chip for 5G networking solution. Availability for general licensing will start in Q2 2020.

“5G growth vectors span consumer, industrial, telecom and AI,” said Aviv Malinovitch, General Manager of the Mobile Broadband Business Unit at CEVA. “The CEVA-XC16 DSP helps to substantially reduce the entry barriers for OEMs and semiconductor vendors looking to benefit from the growing 5G Capex and Open RAN network architectures.”

CEVA is a licensor of wireless connectivity and smart sensing technologies: Digital Signal Processors, AI processors, wireless platforms and complementary software for sensor fusion, image enhancement, computer vision, voice input and artificial intelligence. Its total revenue for 2019 was $87.2 million, an increase of 12%, when compared to $77.9 million reported for 2018.

CEVA Invests $10 Million in Strategic Partnership With Immervision

CEVA has entered into a strategic partnership agreement with Immervision from Montreal, Canada that includes $10 million technology investment from CEVA, and securing exclusive licensing rights to Immervision’s image processing and sensor fusion software for wide-angle cameras.

Immervision is a developer and licensor of wide-angle lenses and image processing technologies, with special expertise in software technologies that remove the inherent distortions associated with the use of wide-angle cameras, particularly at the edges of the frame. Immervision’s technologies have shipped in more than 50 million devices of costumers such as Acer, Dahua, Garmin, Hanwha, Lenovo, Motorola, Quanta, Sony and Vivotek.

Under the partnership agreement, CEVA made a $10 million technology investment to secure exclusive licensing rights to Immervision’s portfolio of patented wide-angle image processing technology and software. This includes real-time adaptive dewarping, stitching, image color and contrast enhancement, and electronic image stabilization. CEVA will also license Immervision’s Data-in-Picture proprietary technology, which integrates within each video frame fused sensory data, such as that offered by Hillcrest Labs (a business recently acquired by CEVA).

Immervision’s hardware-agnostic software portfolio will continue to be offered for all System-on-Chip (SoC) platforms containing a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and in a power-optimized version for SoCs containing the CEVA-XM4 or CEVA-XM6 vision DSPs. Gideon Wertheizer, CEO of CEVA, said that with the combination of Immervision’s CEVA’s , “we are lowering the entry barriers for semiconductor providers and OEM customers into this space.”


CEVA Refresh its Business Model: Acquires Sensor Business of Hillcrest

The licensor of signal processing platforms and artificial intelligence processors, CEVA from Herzliya, Israel, expands its business model to software licensing with the the acquisition of the Hillcrest Laboratories business from InterDigital. The financial details of the transaction will be discussed during CEVA’s second quarter 2019 earnings conference call, scheduled for August 8. Following the agreement all 22 employees of Hillcrest  joined CEVA, while the ownership of its 235 patents remained in the hands of the US BASED InterDigital. 

Hillcrest Labs provides software and components for sensor processing in consumer and IoT devices, including MEMS-based inertial and environmental sensors that are used in smartphones, laptops, tablets, wireless earbuds, TV & remote controls, AR & VR headsets, drones and robots. Its solutions  and more.any other consumer and industrial devices. With more than than 100 million devices shipped incorporating their technology, Hillcrest Labs is regarded as an innovator in the fusion of data from multiple sensors to enable intelligent systems.

A New Growth Engine called MotionEngine

Its MotionEngine software supports a broad range of merchant sensor chips and is licensed to OEMs and semiconductor companies that can run the software on CEVA DSPs and a variety of RISC CPUs, including Arm Cortex-M and Cortex-A series and RISC-V based cores. The complements CEVA’s sensing technologies, which includes computer vision and AI processing for cameras and sound processing for microphones.

CEVA said that Hillcrest Labs software broadens its software licensing engagements directly with OEMs and ODMs to enable the addition of a plethora of IMU-based software applications to their merchant SoCs, which adopt a royalty payment scheme based on devices rather than chips. Gideon Wertheizer, CEO of CEVA, explained that the acquisition presents opportunities for multiple royalty growth vectors, including from OEMs. “Together with our portfolio of connectivity, sound, vision and AI technologies, Hillcrest labs will enable us to continue to redefine the limits of our technology solutions for the data-driven world.”

CEVA is licensing IP for signal processing, sensor fusion and artificial intelligence processors, DSP-based platforms for LTE/LTE-A/5G, AI processors, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 4/5/6. Its Total revenue for 2018 was $77.9 million, a decrease of 11%, when compared to $87.5 million reported for 2017. Licensing and related revenues for 2018 were $40.4 million and royalty revenue totaled $37.4 million in 2018.

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.”

CEVA Announced a New Hybrid DSP/Controller Architecture

CEVA, Inc. (NASDAQ: CEVA), announced CEVA-BX, a new all-purpose, hybrid DSP/Controller architecture to address new algorithms of digital signal processing in voice, video, communication, sensing and digital signal control applications.

CEVA-BX is a new breed of DSP architecture, combining the inherent low power requirements of DSP kernels with high-level programming and compact code size requirements of a large control code base. Using an 11-stage pipeline and 5-way VLIW micro-architecture, it offers parallel processing with dual scalar compute engines, load/store and program control that reaches a speed of 2 GHz at TSMC 7nm process node.

The CEVA-BX Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) incorporates support for Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) widely used in neural network inference, noise reduction and echo cancellation, as well as half, single and double precision floating point units for high accuracy sensor fusion and positioning algorithms.

Mike Demler, Senior Analyst at The Linley Group commented: “Consumer, automotive, industrial and healthcare devices are increasingly integrating multiple sensors, such as cameras, microphones, environmental and motion detectors. Processing these heavy-duty signal-processing workloads in edge devices requires an efficient combination of control and DSP capabilities. The CEVA-BX eliminates the need for separate CPUs and DSP coprocessors, employing a hybrid architecture that delivers excellent all-round performance for smart devices.”

CEVA-BX employs key architecture principles of advanced micro-processor architectures such as a large orthogonal general purpose register set for maximum C compiler efficiency, innovative Branch Target Buffer (BTB) for minimizing branch overhead, hardware loop buffer for reduced power consumption of code loops, fully cached memory subsystem, and native support for all standard C types.

Its CoreMark/MHz score of 4.5 reflects the superior control capabilities of the architecture. CEVA-BX customers are able to add proprietary ISA into the architecture using the CEVA-Xtend, to accelerate proprietary algorithms and take advantage of CEVA’s automatic Queue and Buffer management mechanisms to integrate co-processors and create a cluster of CEVA-BX cores.

Moshe Sheier, vice president of marketing at CEVA, said that CEVA-BX architecture, “revolutionizes the ‘all-purpose DSP’ concept by offering a high performance hybrid architecture that is a single compute island for all DSP and control workloads that are commonplace in intelligent connected devices. Using a high level programming model and parallel processing it addresses the main performance shortfalls and programming difficulties of older special purpose DSPs and controllers.”

The CEVA-BX is initially offered in two configurations – the CEVA-BX1 with single 32X32-bit MAC and quad 16X16-bit MACs and the CEVA-BX2 with quad 32X32-bit MACs and octal 16X16-bit MACs, that are also capable of supporting 16×8-bit and 8×8-bit MAC operations. The CEVA-BX2 addresses intensive workloads such as 5G PHY control, multi-microphone beamforming and neural networks for speech recognition, with up to 16 GMACs per second. The CEVA-BX1 serves low to mid-range DSP workloads, such as cellular IoT, protocol stacks, and always-on sensor fusion, with up to 8 GMACs per second. Security is addressed using dedicated trusted execution modes to comply with the stringent safety standards.

CEVA-BX family is accompanied by a comprehensive software development tool chain, including an advanced LLVM compiler, Eclipse based debugger, DSP and neural network compute libraries, neural network frameworks support such as Android NN API, ARM NN, and Tensorflow Lite, and choice of industry leading Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS).

For more

The CEVA-BX cores are available now to lead customers and by end of Q1/2019 for general licensing.