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Range of Wi-Fi chip sets expanded

Posted: 10 Dec 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:motia? wlan cards? smart-antenna technology? wi-fi systems?

Three-year-old Motia came out of stealth mode last week to announce its first product, an analog signal-processing chip that brings smart-antenna technology to 2.4-GHz WLAN cards and access points. The Stamford, Conn.-based startup claims its Javelin chip can improve the gain of existing 802.11b and .11g signals by 6 to 18 dB.

"Other companies are building entire systems with the smart antenna built in. We are the only ones I'm aware of working to bring smart-antenna technology to the component level, to Wi-Fi systems builders," said Jack Winters, chief scientist for Motia and a former manager in the wireless division of AT&T Labs. The Javelin chip can work with any WLAN transceiver chip set, Motia said.

At the heart of Motia's product lies a 68-pin analog signal-processing chip that uses polarization techniques to derive up to four signals from the two existing antennas typically found in an 802.11 PC card or access point. OEMs may wish to modify their existing internal antennas to maximize benefits of the Motia approach, Winters said.

The chip takes the four incoming RF signals and calculates on a packet-by-packet basis their average weighting to optimize signal strength, making calculations of analog signal data in as little as 2 microseconds to reduce latency. Javelin passes on a combined and optimized signal to any existing Wi-Fi transceiver via a standard antenna port.

Motia said the chip delivers a 6-dB gain improvement in line-of-sight applications, 13 dB in multipath environments and up to 18 dB when used at both the client and access point to handle signal transmission and reception.

The increased gain can translate into a two- to fourfold extension of range, as well as higher data rates and lower power consumption, the company said. In a statement, Bruce McNair, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, said he used the Javelin chip to help connect an 802.11 across a range of 370 feet with 1 milliwatt of transmit power.

Systems startups developing smart antennas, such as Vivato Inc. and Bandspeed Inc.,use sectorized antenna technologies best suited for line-of-sight applications and not as powerful for multipath networks, said Robert Warner, vice president of sales and marketing for Motia. Another potential competitor, Airgo Networks Inc., uses multiple in, multiple out (MIMO) technology that has yet to be standardized and makes an entire suite of silicon to handle baseband, media-access control and smart-antenna functions, he added.

Motia expects to quickly follow its first chip with a multimode, multiband version able to handle 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz .11a/b/g Wi-Fi networks. The company also plans to use its frequency-agnostic technology in several other wireless applications. "Our next product announcement, [scheduled for] early next year, is in a frequency band you probably would not expect," Warner said.

"One major thing that separates Motia from the other smart-antenna vendors is their compliance to the 802.11 standards," said Aaron Vance, an analyst for market watcher Synergy Research Group. "The other guys, when operating in a mode for optimum performance, move away from the standard and into technology that is more proprietary, while Motia does not."

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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