Drawing from resources throughout its semiconductor operations, Texas Instruments Inc. today will unveil a platform for the optical delivery of wireless 100Mbit/s Ethernet connections.
The reference design includes an analog micromirror and transceiver based on technology TI developed over the past 20 years for use in its digital light processing (DLP) display systems. The wireless platforms also will include a TI DSP and ARM-based processor similar to the company's wireless handset solution, as well as analog and mixed-signal ICs.
The platform is expected to wirelessly connect high-bandwidth corporate Ethernet networks, eliminating the expensive and often cumbersome practice of stringing fiber cable through office buildings, said Matt Harrison, business manager at TI's recently created Optical Wireless Solutions unit.
"We're providing fiber-like capability without the cable, directing light through an open-air medium," Harrison said. "This technology will allow companies to provision their networks much faster, while getting the same bandwidth they've been accustomed to with their wired networks."
The optical platform could either compete against or complement other wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, HomeRF, wireless LAN (WLAN), or IrDA, providing data at much higher rates than the other technologies while avoiding a licensed frequency spectrum such as RF. The platform is intended for stationary uses such as office equipment, as opposed to mobile applications, which
are more suited to RF-based wireless technologies, Harrison said.
"This is a surprising and very novel offering," said Will Strauss, an analyst at Forward Concepts Co., Tempe, Ariz. "It's the first time I've heard of anyone using a micromirror approach to local area networks. It's certainly allowing TI to basically use its whole product line."
The key new component of the optical wireless platform is the TALP1135, a dual-axis, gimbaled microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) mirror. The mirror is made of single crystal silicon layered in gold to improve its reflective ability. The electromagnetically actuated elliptical mirror measures 3.6 ?? 3.2mm and is hinged to a frame.
On the frame are four magnets and behind the mirror are four coils that create an electromagnetic field. The separate processor controls the amount of current going to each coil and directs the movement of the mirror to acquire and track the end target for the optical signal.
The TALP1135 chipset is about the size of 30,000 DLP micromirrors, and its ability to move in two directions enables it to direct light in any direction.
The TALP2010 platform combines an ARM7 microprocessor, a TMS320C54x-based DSP core, and two 10/100 Mbit/s Ethernet media access controllers (MACs). Future platform designs are expected to use TI's newer TMS320C55x DSP core to provide increased functionality, and 1Gbit MACs to provide a 1Gbit/s bandwidth.
The chipset can be used in both an optical gateway box placed in a central location in an office, and in individual optical boxes in typical cubicle-style offices.
To be cost-competitive with WLAN technologies, TI believes the optical boxes will eventually retail between $200 and $300. The TI silicon solution is expected to be priced as low as $10 in million-unit volumes.
In addition to eliminating the cost of manually stringing cable, the wireless optical system can be simply reconfigured to allow for movement of individual cubicles and related office equipment, Harrison said.
The technology is being targeted primarily at indoor networks, although it is also expected to be applied to outdoor systems, including metro-free space optics and last-mile residential connections.
Vbrick Systems Inc., a Wallingford, Conn., communications systems equipment OEM, will demonstrate the TI optical networking solution this week at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas. No other customers have yet been announced.
OEM products based on the TI reference design are expected to be introduced in June, Harrison said.