Paris A 22-employee fabless chip company here, whose founders are mostly ex-Alcatel engineers, promises to deliver two system-on-chip devices supporting WiMAX broadband wireless communication in the second quarter of '05, plus modular software packages and reference designs. One SoC will be for basestations, the other for customer-premises equipment (CPE).
Sequans Communications has joined heavyweights Intel Corp. and Fujitsu Microelectronics, and other suppliers, in pursuit of the industry's first WiMAX-certified media-access control/physical-layer integrated baseband SoC. The company aims to market the part for WiMAX CPE for less than $50 and for WiMAX basestations for less than $20 per link by 2006. And it has pledged to put the industry's first WiMAX-certified MAC/PHY integrated FPGA platform into customers' hands by October, ready for the WiMAX Forum's plugfest scheduled for January 2005.
George Karam, Sequans Communications president and CEO, said his company will be able to compete directly with Intel and Fujitsu for three reasons: the optimal partitioning of hardware and software in Sequans' WiMAX SoC architecture; its full WiMAX technologies covering both MAC and PHY; and end-to-end solutions for basestations and subscriber stations.
Intel, Fujitsu and others are slated to launch MAC/PHY integrated SoCs this fall. Wavesat Inc., for example, will offer a PHY-only WiMAX chip, then an integrated MAC/PHY SoC for the CPE market in 2005, said Michel Guay, CEO at Wavesat.
Race is on
"A big, mad dash in WiMAX chips has already begun," said Edward Rerisi, vice president of Research at ABI Research (Oyster Bay, N.Y.). Unlike the rush to develop Wi-Fi chips a few years ago, however, the number of companies involved in designing WiMAX silicon today is far smaller. Compared with the 80 million Wi-Fi chip sets sales expected this year, WiMAX demand in 2006 will be "only a couple of hundred thousand subscribers," Rerisi projected.
Sequans' WiMAX SoC architecture, based on 802.16 orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing, will transmit at up to 75 Mbits/second, the company said. By using a fully digital front end, the Sequans chip will provide both IF and baseband interfaces to accommodate any type of external RF chips. Its PHY uses a fast synchronization algorithm for simultaneous timing and frequency recovery, together with a proprietary turbo code decoding algorithm.
Sequans will provide modular software packages, which will run on top of its hardware's application programming interface.