New applications in communication systems are being developed that place a considerably higher workload on embedded digital signal processing (DSP) cores. The DSP workload of upcoming cellular handsets will be at least an order of magnitude higher than that of current handsets. This paper explains why the most economic way of satisfying these new requirements is with powerful DSP cores associated with tightly coupled, application-specific processing elements. These processing elements are enabled by user-defined instructions that are fully integrated into a standard toolchain. The paper presents Infineon’s Carmel DSP 20xx with PowerPlug modules as an example of such a processor.