In the telecom world, equipment manufacturers often face the dilemma of buying “commercial off the shelf” (COTS) chipsets as opposed to developing network processors in-house. While buying ready-made COTS chipsets from third-party vendors can reduce costs and shorten the R&D process, it can also limit a platform’s functionality and the ability to fully customize a solution. For this reason, a number of high-end routing platforms such as Alcatel-Lucent (now part of Nokia) and Cisco have moved from COTS to home-grown network processes.
This trend can also be seen in the optical communications realm, where companies such as Infinera and Nokia are also developing ICs internally and with great success.
In the wireless transmission domain, however, most vendors still settle for COTS components, and continue to buy their chipsets for their microwave systems from vendors such as Max Linear; instead of building their systems on platforms that use home-grown modems and Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits (RFICs).
This is surprising since by manufacturing their main components in-house, wireless backhaul vendors can benefit from the flexibility and manufacturing responsiveness required to meet the dynamic needs of their customers. When comparing basic parameters – such as spectral efficiency, capacity and system gain – a vertically integrated platform has a definitive advantage over other products based on COTS components. This means that home-grown ASICs and RFICs can power a more spectrally efficient, high-capacity, cost-efficient advanced wireless transmission system.
The development of chips in-house is also beneficial to customers in other ways. For example, a wireless transmission system that is built based on exact specifications and performs at a higher level than a COTS-driven one will provide the capacity required to take on wireless traffic with maximum spectral efficiency and system gain. This means that customers can use smaller antennas in their networks, which reduces both CAPEX and OPEX (tower leasing expenses, installation and transportation costs).
Superior spectral efficiency also enables telecom operators to reduce spectrum fees per given required capacity. This becomes significant when groundbreaking technologies such as line-of-sight multiple-input-multiple-output (LoS MIMO) and advanced-frequency-reuse (AFR) are used.
In short, it may seem as though the make-buy decision is a pure vendor-related dilemma, but this is far from the truth. It has a significant impact on communication service providers as well.
At Ceragon, we fully understand this impact — which is why we’ve been developing more than four generations of chips in-house. With the capabilities of solutions built using Ceragon chipsets, wireless providers can increase their operational efficiency, ensure peace of mind and enhance their subscribers’ quality of experience.