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Bluetooth coming to terms with single-chip issue

Posted: 16 Jan 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:single-chip bluetooth? wireless silicon? bluetooth integration?

When Bluetooth surfaced on the wireless scene a few years ago, the semiconductor industry jumped onto the notion of single-chip solution for a seamless integration. The early years of Bluetooth were mired by a plethora of technical and marketing challenges, and one of the setbacks it suffered at the silicon level was the failure to achieve a single-chip Bluetooth device. It would provide a cost-efficient integration of both the hardware and the protocol stacks needed to run the Bluetooth profiles and applications as well as the radio interface.

Although single-chip Bluetooth design is still viable, there are other solutions available. "As this is still a relatively new type of technology, one can suspect some yield problems that are not appearing until the final product is tested, said Tommy Ljunggren, co-founder and senior partner of technology research firm Northstream. "One can also presume an interference problem between the analog and digital parts that is more easily solved in a divided concept."

Moreover, many of the startup companies pursuing a single-chip solution may not have the design expertise or the right process technology to manufacture CMOS devicescapable of high performance RF frontendtogether with digital functions on the same chip, Ljunggren said.

A single chip is viable, says Bruno Defretin, director of Bluetooth Core Team, Telecom Peripheral and Automotive Group, STMicroelectronics, but the market may also request different solutions for different applications. In some cases, a two-chip solution may have more advantage. "What we know is that in the long term, Bluetooth may be more than 'another link' and at that time, Bluetooth baseband will be merged with a digital container device and outside will remain an RF component," he reckoned. Hence, the cost will be minimized. The players in the Bluetooth market at that time will be the volume suppliers with whatever solution the customer requests, said Defretin.

The idea of single-chip Bluetooth emerged when the technology hype was at full bloom, but later in the days of anticlimax, it became a major hindrance in the development of Bluetooth products. But as Bluetooth passes through the natural technology progression, it becomes evident that there are other practical ways to achieve seamless integration.

The integration of Bluetooth in wireless devices will take off when the price level of the Bluetooth chip and its integration is right. However, it will require a critical mass readily available in the market first.

Majeed Ahmad Kamran

Electronic Engineering Times Asia

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