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Baseband processor

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Baseband processor

A baseband processor (also known as baseband radio processor, BP, or BBP) is a device (a chip or part of a chip) in a network interface that manages all the radio functions (all functions that require an antenna). This may not include Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth. A baseband processor typically uses its own RAM and firmware.

Overview

Baseband processors typically run a RTOS written in firmware:

The rationale of separating the baseband processor from the main processor (known as the AP or Application Processor) is threefold:

Radio performance
Radio control functions (signal modulation, encoding, radio frequency shifting, etc.) are highly timing-dependent, and require a real-time operating system.
Legal
Some authorities (e.g. the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)) require that the entire software stack running on a device which communicates with the cellular network must be certified. Separating the BP into a different component allows reusing them without having to certify the full AP.
Radio reliability
Separating the BP into a different component ensures proper radio operation while allowing application and OS changes.

Manufacturers

Significant manufacturers of baseband processors include the following:

Security concerns

Since the software which runs on baseband processors is usually proprietary, it is impossible to perform an independent code audit. By reverse engineering some of the baseband chips, researchers have found security vulnerabilities which could be used to access and modify data on the phone remotely.[1] In March 2014, makers of the free Android derivative Replicant announced they have found a backdoor in the baseband software of Samsung Galaxy phones which allows remote access to user data stored on the phone.[2]

References

  1. ^ Ralf Philipp Weinmann. "DeepSec 2010: All your baseband are belong to us". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  2. ^ "Replicant developers find and close Samsung Galaxy backdoor". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 

Further reading

  • Baseband Processor entry at openezx.org
  • Babin, Steve. Developing software for Symbian OS: A beginner's guide to creating Symbian OS v9 smartphone applications in C++. Symbian Press, 2007, p. 80.
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