EL SEGUNDO, CA—Mobile phones are increasingly evolving into all-in-one devices, combing communications, computing, and entertainment functions that require support for multiple RF standards, including Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and audio and video broadcasting. All of these RF standards make mobile-phone designs more complicated, demanding the use of larger numbers of components, thus impacting factors including the Bill of Materials (BOM) cost, printed-circuit-board (PCB) size, form factor, and power consumption.

To address these issues, semiconductor suppliers have developed system-on-a-chip (SoC) solutions that integrate all components required. These SoC's resolve the issue of BOM cost, but to fail to deliver on other challenges related to multiple RF standards, including desired flexibility and spectrum efficiency.

Software-defined radio (SDR) could be the answer to these problems, according to a report from Tina Teng of iSuppli Corp. SDR is an analog interface to the RF stage and antenna via a high-speed analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) capable of digitizing a wide portion of the radio spectrum. The figure represents iSuppli's most likely forecast for shipments of SDR mobile phones.