Symmetry Electronics: Silicon Labs Highlights the "Six Hidden Costs to Using an SoC"
There is a point in each product’s life when an “on-board” solution might make sense to save money. But it’s not always obvious, or tied to volume. Even the Apple iPhone 6 uses a Wi-Fi module instead of an SoC and it has shipped something close to 200 million units. Why? The answer could be any of the following 6 "hidden costs" to using a SoC. However, being aware of these hidden costs will help you navigate the waters of development and production so you know when to move from a module to SoCs and when to pull back.
1. RF ENGINEERS – A company needs RF engineering expertise, or access to it, if they’re using RF on their PCBs. RF can be very tricky and RF engineers are expensive. Glassdoor.com estimates they cost $80-150K/year without benefits or overhead.
2. LAB EQUIPMENT & FACILITIES – Owning and equipping an RF lab is also expensive because it’s fundamentally required to do RF development.
3. PCB LAYOUT AND ANTENNA SELECTION – Even with RF engineers and lab equipment, getting the RF done correctly takes time. There is generally very good advice in RF Application Notes like AN930 for Bluetooth Smart. But it can be hard even when following these documents very carefully.
4. REGULATORY APPROVALS & WIRELESS STANDARD CERTIFICATIONS – All wireless products in the unlicensed bands must be approved by various governments and standards bodies. Each certification costs money and can take multiple tries. They may even cause delays or product redesigns. Modules generally come with these certifications already in place.
5. REDUCED PRODUCT REVENUES FROM TTM DELAYS – All of the above can add up to product delays. If a product misses its target window, or if competing product beats it to market, the revenue projections can fall, reducing the target ROI.
6. SUPPLY MANAGEMENT & ASSURANCE – And of course, once a product is in the market it must have supply. If a company is using a module, it’s a single ordering part number with a the buying power of a consolidated module customer base. If it’s an SoC design, there are lots of components and supply may be an issue.
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