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Wisair fields single chip for belated wireless USB spec

Posted: 02 Aug 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless USB interconnects? UWB transceiver? Bluetooth? UWB to broadcast media?

A startup is announcing a single-chip device for wireless USB interconnects at a time when the standard continues to face delays coming to market. Wisair follows the path set by Staccato Communications by putting an UWB transceiver in one CMOS chip.

Wisair said it can deliver 100Mbps of application-level throughput with its WSR601 chip when used as an external USB plug-in device and 300Mbps when integrated natively into a system. The 130nm chip consumes 250mW average and 600mW peak and will sell as a full module for under $15.

The current chip can be used as either an end point or hub for internal system designs or as external dongles that plug into a wired USB port. Wisair said it is sampling the chip now and expects it to be in production before the end of the year. A next-generation product will support PCIe to enable better throughput for internal designs.

The Wisair chip supports only the 3-5GHz spectrum of the Band Group 1 as defined by the WiMedia Alliance. Competitor Alereon Inc. recently rolled a two-chip device using SiGe that supports frequencies from 3-10GHz to pave the way for protocols such as Bluetooth 3.0 residing in higher bands.

Although many companies have been pursuing wireless USB as an initial market for UWB chips, only a handful of products have been shipped to date. Most wireless USB proponents are waiting for final certification of their parts from the USB Implementers Forum and the WiMedia Alliance.

The USB-IF met last week on its wireless spec that focuses on the USB protocol. The WiMedia Alliance has an interoperability certification meeting Aug. 6 on the link between the PHY device and the media access controller.

'Making progress'
Roberto Aiello, chief technology officer for Staccato, is optimistic that products with certification from both groups will ship before year's endabout a year later than the group had planned.

"We are making progress," said Aiello. "We don't want to ship prestandard products, so we have to go through these gates."

In January 2006, Staccato launched a single-chip wireless USB transceiver using a 110nm process. It delivers throughput of less than 80Mbps when used in an external dongle, consumes 500mW average and is also available as a module for less than $15.

"The whole idea of our company was to produce a single chip in CMOS," Aiello said. "Many people have efforts on this path, and I think everyone will have single-chip parts eventually."

Like many wireless USB chip designers, Staccato and Wisair target mobile systems, hoping their chips will someday be designed into millions of cell phones and other portable products. Staccato is working on a prototype with Korean carrier SK Telecom that hopes to use UWB to broadcast media to and between cellphones.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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