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Airoha joins pre-.11n game

Posted: 01 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Airoha Technology? 802.11n? Jazz Semiconductor? DVD? AL8160?

RF chip designer Airoha Technology Corp. is getting into the game for pre-802.11n chips, anticipating volume production of a single-band transceiver toward the end of this quarter.

Airoha follows a handful of other companies trying to capture market share in the early, somewhat chaotic days of .11n, a not-yet-finalized IEEE specification that calls for multiple antennas to improve wireless throughput, range and reliability.

The company's first .11n go-round, the AL8160, will target the Internet access data market with a single-band (2.4-2.5GHz) transceiver chip that packs two transmitters and three receivers (2Tx3R) into an 8mm x 8mm package. As with past RF parts, Airoha's design uses an SiGe process that allows it to integrate two power amplifiers, as well as three low-noise amplifiers and other components that help reduce its BOM.

Airoha is targeting the client side, where just about all transceiver requirements are 2Tx3R. The company plans to follow up with a dual-band solution. This could appeal to customers looking to move into the less-cluttered 5GHz band, which is more conducive to video streaming.

Before it makes that move, however, Airoha must make sure that integration of the two power amps is glitch-free. That may require one more trip to the fab for a respin.

"We haven't had experience integrating two PAs into the same frequency band, so we have to see if there is any interference," said Terry Lee, product manager at Airoha.

Dual-band solution
After an evaluation, the company will start on a dual-band solution, probably sometime in Q3. Combining four PAs in that design will be a challenge, Lee said, but so far, the developers' integration of two PAs in the single-band solution looks like it won't rear up to bite them. If it does, then engineers could consider external PAs, but that would blunt one of the advantages of using a SiGe process.

Supplier of Airoha transceiver touts Error Vector Magnitude.

While competitively priced SiGe technology from Jazz Semiconductor has served Airoha well thus far, watch for the company to begin exploring RF CMOS. Its competitors are moving down that path and, unlike Airoha, many of them already have baseband technology.

However, Airoha has done well with its baseband partnerships, so don't count it out. DVD and cellphone chip designer MediaTek Inc. recently bought a one-third stake in Airoha, a nice sign of confidence in the small company's abilities.

MediaTek has been a savvy investor in recent years. The Airoha deal gives MediaTek an inside line to a strong RF design team that can augment its own.

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times

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