Today’s EETimes carries an article by Anne-Françoise Pele describing the announcement of a successful first-pass tapeout of a low-power, 40nm cellular baseband chip called the SC8800G by Spreadtrum Communications in China. More than a successful tapeout, the chip is now live and living happily in shipping cellular handsets from Huawei and other vendors. Spreadrum’s SC8800G handles several cellular baseband protocols including TD-HSUPA, TD-SCDMA, GSM, GPRS and EDGE. It supports TD-HSDPA at 2.8Mbps and TD-HSUPA at 2.2Mbps.
The article quotes Spreadtrum as having migrated to the Cadence Silicon Realization flow for this project. Silicon Realization encompasses many Cadence EDA tools including the Encounter Digital Implementation System, RTL Compiler, Conformal Low Power, Incisive enterprise Simulator, Encounter Test, Encounter Timing System, Virtuoso Custom Design, Multi-mode Simulation, QRC Extraction, Encounter Power System, and DFM technologies. Although each of these EDA tools is world-class in its own right, the secret sauce of Silicon Realization is that the tools can all draw from a common design database that contains more than just the usual physical and logical design data. The database also conveys design intent (such as expected power consumption) and holds multiple abstraction levels so that each tool can use the appropriate level of abstraction to optimize performance with the appropriate level of accuracy. (A database that can handle these multiple dimensions is the direct result of many years of work, embodied in the OpenAcess database.) Design intent and support for multiple abstraction levels are essential to attaining rapid design convergence, which only results by minimizing the number of design iterations needed to achieve all project goals.
Does this sort of end-to-end tool flow work? Is Silicon Realization of real value or is it just a marketing label? The proof is in the Spreadtrum result: first-pass working silicon with good production yields. First silicon came back from the fab in October and the chip was brought up, validated and certified, soldered to circuit boards, packaged in handsets, and commercially shipped by January. No stronger proof can be offered. The answer is, “Yes, it works.”