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UWB designs get performance boost

Posted: 09 Dec 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WiQuest Communications? UWB chipset? WQST110? WiMedia? UWB chip?

Gigabit UWB chipset

Many are predicting that 2006 will be the breakout year for Ultrawideband (UWB). In preparation, the designers at WiQuest Communications have had their noses to the proverbial grindstone for the past two years. The result, an impressive Gigabit UWB chipset, including the WQST110 WiMedia-compatible UWB chip and the WQST101 RF transceiver chip.

One of the things that makes this chipset so special is that UWB is a young commercial market, and there is little available in the realm of all-silicon solutions (as opposed to ICs paired with FPGAs). "We believe that we are the first UWB chip that has an integrated full function WiMedia MAC," explained Dave Brenner, VP of marketing at WiQuest. With sensitivity to the youth of this market, the team also designed the chipset with full USB capability so it can be used in either host or device side applications.

This chipset was not a case of purchasing third-party intellectual property and combining it with in-house design. "We engineered the entire system, baseband MAC, etc., from the ground up because we knew we were going for high performance. The result is that we can enable UWB links up to 1Gbps."

The team recognized the need to be standards-compliant, and early on in their design process chose to go with the WiMedia UWB specifications that are based on Multiband OFDM (MB-OFDM).

In terms of the specifics on the chipset, the WQST110 is a wireless CMOS IC combining baseband physical layer, media access controller engine, a high-speed security processor, quality of service (QoS) manager, and a variety of host interfaces including Peripheral Component Interconnect, General Purpose Interface and USB 2.0.The complimentary WQST101 is a direct-conversion RF transceiver.

Some of the key design challenges for the team were to deliver high performance with lowest cost and power. "One way we managed this was to come up with some innovative technology that basically provided extensions, leveraging the digital logic, and put those extensions on top of the WiMedia core functionality," says Brenner. Inside the WQST110, the team also had to contend with the limitations of clock speed, because they were determined to stick to a silicon process. The WQST110 is a CMOS TSOC and the RF transceiver is implemented in SiGe.

For the RF side, they had to provide good linearity across a broad spectrum in order to deliver 1Gbps performance. Since they were dealing with low power levels, they needed to focus on receiver sensitivity. "Across the board, from the raw performance feeds to the RF design, we did a lot of integration and overcame some considerable design challenges by leveraging the core competencies, technical expertise, and creativity of our design team," added Brenner.

One early design consideration for WiQuest was how to partition the product to optimize efficiency, power, and performance. Recognizing the importance to be flexible and early in an emerging market, the team suggested a two-chip solution. "We determined how much we could reasonably accomplish and meet our schedule; we wanted to leverage the opportunity of being out in front," noted Brenner.

The WQST1110 is housed in a 196 BGA and the WQST101 is housed in a 56-pin exposed paddle package. They do not require the use of external memory or an external microprocessor.

The chipset is sampling now, and an evaluation kit is available now. A complete BOM using this chipset will be priced in the low $20s. The company expects to shrink that cost significantly in volume production.

- Janine Love

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