CEVA’s 5G IP modem reveals New Industrial Mega-trends

The provider of IP solutions for semiconductors, CEVA, announced the availability of PentaG2, its second generation IP modems platform for 5G networks. But unlike the first generation, PentaG2 is planned to answer the needs of a mature 5G industry characterized by well defined use cases and much detailed standards.

VP Marketing at CEVA, Moshe Sheier, told Techtime that the first generation of PentaG was heavily relied on Software Defined Radio, since the industrial standards were not yet finalized. “The latest releases of 3GPP 5G NR standards provides stable ground for new systems and allowed us replace many software defined accelerators with hardware ones, thus improving performance and reducing power consumption.”

PentaG2 includes a complete set of programmable accelerators and coprocessors, including Bit Modulation Unit (Tx), Bit Demodulation Unit (Rx), Equalizer and MAC engine co-processor Unit, Decoder/Encode as well as HARQ, MLD, Multi-radix DFT and more. The platform also includes a scalar DSP for PHY control, hardware acceleration scheduling, and running the protocol stack. All accelerators come with standard AXI interfaces for ease of integration.

“5G is not all about Smartphones”

PentaG2 platforms will initially be offered in two configurations: PentaG2-Max that is able to efficiently process the immense workloads required for 3GPP releases 16 and 17, and PentaG2-Lite for reduced capacity use cases, including LTE Cat1 and future 3GPP Rel-17/18 NR RedCap (Reduced Capacity, aka NR-Lite). “5G today is not all about smartphones, there are new established use cases including smart home, Industrial IoT, Wearable and more that connects 5G networks but can use smaller, chipper and lower performance chips.”

CEVA also announced that “PentaG2 customers can also benefit from SoC design services from CEVA to help integrate and support system design and modem development.” This is interesting: Last year CEVA acquired Massachusetts-based Intrinsix, a chip design specialist, for approximately $33 million in cash, and entered the business of chip design services. According to Sheier, the new business is needed to face a new mega-trend: “Our costumers want to control their supply chain and to develop their own chips. There is no a single major smartphone brand who does not involved in developing its own chips, and today we see this trend also in much smaller vendors, even in the field of IoT.”

 

CEVA to provide IP for all of DARPA Programs

CEVA announced an open licensing agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to to provide support for DARPA programs. The partnership is a part of the DARPA Toolbox initiative. It establishes an access framework under which DARPA organizations can access all of CEVA’s commercially available IPs, tools and support to expedite their programs.

CEVA, Arm and Verific are the first technology companies to sign commercial partnership agreements under DARPA Toolbox. CEVA is a licensor of IP for Digital Signal Processors, AI processors, wireless platforms and complementary software for sensor fusion, computer vision, voice and other key enabling technologies. Key technologies offered by CEVA under this initiative include DSPs and software for 5G baseband processing, short range connectivity, sensor fusion, computer vision, sound processing and Artificial Intelligence.

DARPA Toolbox is a new, agency-wide effort aimed at providing open licensing opportunities with commercial technology vendors to the researchers behind DARPA programs. For commercial vendors, DARPA Toolbox will provide an opportunity to leverage the agency’s forward-looking research and a chance to develop new revenue streams based on programmatic achievements developed with their technologies.

Renesas and CEVA to Develop a SoC for ADAS

CEVA from Herzlya, Israel, announced that Renesas has licensed its DSP technology to develop an automotive System-on-Chip (SoC) for a new ADAS system of a  a very large automotive manufacturer in Japan. “This is a monumental agreement”, said Gideon Wertheizer, CEO of CEVA, during the company’s earnings call for Q3, 2020. In fact, this design win put both CEVA and Renesas in a direct competition with Intel’s Mobileye and NVIDIA Drive.

Naoki Yoshida, Vice President at Renesas noted regardin the agreement: “In active safety and self-driving applications, DSP processing is a key IP for processing and segmenting sensor data generated by sensors on vehicles.” This is exactly what CEVA is doing: It provides IPs of Digital Signal Processors, AI processors, wireless platforms and complementary software for sensor fusion, image enhancement, computer vision, voice input and artificial intelligence.

During the conference call, Gideon Wertheizer revealed more interesting details: “The agreement is based on a project. Our customer (Renesas Electronics) won with a very large automotive manufacturer in Japan, for an ADAS solution for new L2+ and L3 cars, which are projected to start production by 2025. It’s a mid-range car, that means volume versus the premium part.”

CEVA is not unfamiliar with the automotive industry: It has Automotive agreements with On Semiconductor, Yamaha, Toshiba, Rohm, AutoTalks and others to provide IP blocks for Wi-Fi, V2X, cameras and more, but becoming a main technology provider for an ADAS system is something else. This is a strategic platform – the playground of giants. And it turns out that the giants may be too big for their clients.

Wertheizer: “NVIDIA and Mobileye push their own closed and vertically integrated solutions. But automotive Tier one and OEMs are seeking an open high-performance technology where they can take advantage of their in-house excellence while not being locked into a certain vendor. Our powerful DSPs, AI technologies and our collaborate business model set a comprehensive foundation that enable OEMs to become supplier agnostic and translate their innovation into a competitive edge.”

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.”