Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Inside the first 60 GHz CMOS radios

Here's a sneak peak under the hood of what the first commercial 60 GHz radios aimed for consumer apps might look like, based on a conversation yesterday with Bob Brodersen, a pioneer in CMOS radio and chairman of startup SiBeam, Inc. :

Sampling probably in late 2007 will be a device capable of sending uncompressed high def video between a set-top box and a TV at data rates up to 5 Gbits/second. It will be packaged in a roughly one-inch square module designed to accommodate up to 30 adaptive directional antennas. It could draw up to 5W and cost a slight premium over components for a wired HDMI link. Some of the early research chips from UC Berkeley (pictured) used waveguides on silicon to keep the millimeter signals on track.

The value proposition: It could provide lower cost and higher quality than using ultrawideband. That’s because a 200-400 Mbit/s UWB link would require an extra compression step meaning more codecs, more DRAM, more data loss and latency.

Detractors say it will take two years before there are multiple sources of 60 GHz radios with demonstrated interoperability. Backers say they are designing the most integrated and lowest cost phased array devices anyone has ever attempted in CMOS.

Will this be the multimedia home networking nirvana that supplants 1394, ultrawideband and 802.11n? Stay tuned. --rbm

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