Monday, October 22, 2007

Stirring the wireless stew

Today sees the debut of no less than two new wireless personal area networking options and a proprietary spin on Wi-Fi.

In PANs, my colleague R. Colin Johnson relayed a story about how IBM has teamed up with Taiwan's MediaTek to field a 60 GHz chip set for wireless personal area networks. (I am not finding Colin's story online this morning, but see Cnet's version here.) The news hits the same day startup Radiospire emerges from stealth mode with its 1.7 GHz chip set.

IBM will build an RF chip in its silicon germanium process that MediaTek will pair with its baseband chip, both targeting the IEEE 802.15.3c standard. The link is expected to deliver multiple Gbits/second over 5-6 meters. It will compete with the WirelessHD effort launched earlier this year by startup SiBeam which is evangelizing the technology among OEMs with an ad hoc standards group.

Separately, Radiospire Networks announces today its AirHook chip set using the 1.7 GHz band to deliver throughput of 1.6 Gbits/s. The company loosely refers to its effort as wireless HD, but as far as I can tell it has no relation to the SiBeam or IBM technology. It's not clear to me whether it uses ultrawideband or some other approach.

But wait, there's more. Startup Avnera Corp. is announcing its AudioMagic chip set that uses a proprietary spin on 2.4 GHz wireless networking to send audio around the digital home in a way that it claims is superior to the omnipresent Wi-Fi. Hey, I heard that story before from a startup that wilted on the vine trying to get buy in for a unique spin of .11a for TV makers.

According to Colin's story, Avnera already has some market traction. The company claims it has design wins at a dozen major audio component makers, including Panasonic, and that foundry partner Jazz Semiconductor is in volume on the Avnera parts. Companies including Acoustic Research, AudioEngine, Best Buy and SDI Technology already have products out that have been quietly using the Avnera chips.

The startup claims its chips maintain 30 millisecond latency or less and solve error correction problems without needing to use retransmission techniques used in the more data-oriented Wi-Fi. Colin's story suggests some details about how they do it, and notes the downside is it means Avnera's chips won't work with anything else on the home Wi-Fi net.

Amazing, one day brings three new options for wireless in the digital home. This stew is getting pretty thick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The chips will work fine with each other, but cannot communicate with anything on the home Wi-Fi. Just wanted to point that out, since it is easy to misread that sentence to mean the chips fail if there is anyhing else on home wi-fi.