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Vendors working to make WUSB a standard

Posted: 26 Jun 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:WUSB? wireless USB? USB? WiMedia? interoperability?

With chipsets and single-chip solutions now being sampled, and the software drivers and utilities being qualified, wireless USB (WUSB) system hardwareWUSB hubs, host dongles and peripheralswon't be far behind.

The potential market for WUSB nodes is huge, with an estimated 11 million nodes in 2007 growing to over 300 million nodes by the year 2010 according to market research presented at the Certified WUSB developer's conference by Jeff Ravencraft, the president and chairman of the USB Implementer's Forum.

The goal of WUSB is to eliminate the USB cable tethers that connect peripherals to their host computers, thus giving users the freedom to wirelessly connect to printers, cameras and many other peripherals at full USB 2.0 high-speed transfer rates of 480Mbps.

To accomplish this, the WUSB solutions must be effortless, secure and reliable, said Fred Bhesania, the lead program manager for WUSB at Microsoft Corp. Without these three aspects, user adoption will falter and return rates of hardware to the vendors will escalate since most potential users don't want to read set-up manuals and install drivers and step through complex set-up procedures. At Microsoft, drivers for Windows XP and the forthcoming Vista operating systems will provide seamless connectivity, with Beta copies of the drivers now available to IHVs (independent hardware vendors), stated Bhesania.

One of the thorniest issues with UWB has been getting the spectrum approvals in all countries to truly make WUSB a worldwide standard said Stephen Wood, president of the WiMedia Alliance. Now, thanks to efforts of the Alliance, consumer devices will soon interoperate as hundreds of industry players commit their resources to ensure interoperability.

Currently the U.S. has committed the spectrum for WUSB, while Japan is expected to approve it in July. Korea, Europe and Canada are also expected to approve the spectrum in the second half of 2006, while China will take until early 2007 to get the spectrum allocation approved. Thus, by the end of the first quarter of 2007, WUSB should be a worldwide standard, stated Wood.

In addition to the spectrum, interoperability is a key concern to ensure users have a true UWB wireless personal area network. To that end, a interoperability testing event held several months ago allowed six vendors of UWB physical (PHY) interface solutions (Alereon Inc., Realtek Semiconductor, Staccato Communications, WiQuest Communications, Wisair and TZero Technologies Inc.) to test their chip-level implementations.

At the same time, test vendors such as Agilent, LeCroy, and Tektronix were able to demonstrate the ability to do analytical measurements on the PHYs, including tests such as error vector magnitude, power spectral density and various signal-quality measurements to ensure compliance to the PHY specification set forth by the Alliance, explained Wood.

At the recent Certified WUSB conference, additional interoperability demonstrations showed the ability of various vendors to talk to other vendor's hardware. The first five-way multivendor interoperability demonstration based on Certified WUSB at the conference illustrated the interoperability between multiple media access controllers (MACs) and PHYs.

In one example, a laptop with an Intel host adapter that incorporates an Alereon PHY transferred data to a Philips Semiconductor subsystem that combines a Realtek PHY and Philips MAC, all using Windows XP and drivers supplied by Microsoft. Many companies also displayed production and near-production-ready silicon and silicon-germanium implementations of WUSB solutions.

For example, Staccato Communications demonstrated its Ripcord family of system-in-package CMOS WUSB products for PC dongle and wireless hub products. The Ripcord devices come in versions with separate MAC and PHY chips as well as a true single chip device, the SC3501P implemented in 110nm CMOS. The SC3501P combines the certified WUSB interface, the WiMedia MAC (version 1.0) and the PHY (version 1.1) as well as a 32bit RISC processor, USB 2.0 high-speed interface, and all other active functions on a single chip. Surrounding the chip in the 120-contact land-grid array package are all the passive components, the crystal, RF matching network and other support components.

As part of its support infrastructure, Staccato has set up a group called Team Staccato, a partner program with 14 initial partners to provide customers with total solutions for WiMedia-based UWB and Certified WUSB products, stated Mark Bowles, founder and vice president of business development and corporate marketing at the company. The first phase of the program includes efforts with test equipment suppliers, UWB filter and antenna component providers and software driver suppliers.

Both Synopsys Inc. and Wipro offered intellectual property solutions for designers planning an ASIC that will incorporate a MAC core. Additionally, fabless vendor Artimi demonstrated a low-power WiMedia MAC, the RTMI-150, which operates in the WiMedia band groups of 1, 3, 4 and 6. The chip has gone through preliminary interoperability testing with Intel's peripheral development kit that employs Intel's emulated PHY and several third-party WiMedia PHYs.

Tackling the PHY portion of the system, Alereon, a fabless chip supplier, demonstrated its AL4100 SiGe-based RF transceiver and AL4200 baseband processor, which together provide a complete WiMedia PHY that works in conjunction with a compatible WiMedia or WUSB MAC.

Both Windows XP drivers and a WUSB chipset are available from WiQuest. The drivers for Certified WUSB support the company's WUSB PCI express mini card and other adapter products. These cards are based on the company's WUSB chipset, the CMOS WQST110 MAC and PHY, and the SiGe-based WQST101 direct-conversion RF transceiver.

Employing a multi-radio technology it dubs UltraMIMO, Tzero Technologies offers an RF front-end, the TZ7210, that delivers an EVM of -26dB, which it claims is one of the best in the industry, and a -83dBm receive sensitivity, also claimed to be the best in the industry. The UltraMIMO technology gives the WUSB solution increased range and improved link reliability versus none MIMO solutions. Complementing the RF chip is the baseband MAC chip, the TZ7110.

Although not initially targeted at WUSB applications, the Talaria TT1001 UWB chipset from Focus Semiconductor provides an analog front end implemented in SiGe and a digital baseband MAC implemented in CMOS. The chipset was initially developed to support digital video distribution and can handle data rates almost double that of WUSB880Mbps with a projected transmission range of up to 40m. The RF chip includes dual operating modesthe WiMedia MB-OFDM as well as Focus' proprietary DS-OFDM mode with the company claims offers better range and higher data rates.

- Dave Bursky
EE Times

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