PORTLAND, Ore. -- Wireless personal area networks (WPANs) for the digital living room and digital office are the promised outcome of a joint-development effort announced by IBM and MediaTek on Oct. 22, 2007. The companies have already begun development of an IEEE 802.15.3c-compatible chip set for WPANs. IBM will supply its 60 GHz radio cast in BiCMOS SiGe, and MediaTek will mate to it a baseband chip, resulting in a complete silicon solution for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of WPAN devices.
The multi-year effort is scheduled to coincide with finalization of the WPAN standard at IEEE, which is aimed at providing individual rooms with wireless gigabyte data connections. Theoretically, all the interconnections of components in a room could be wireless using WPAN, including transmission of high-definition video and high-speed file transfers that sync an iPod in seconds.
"We want to eliminate the jumble of wires consumers need now to interconnect all their different components, from the living room to the office," said Mehmet Soyuer, lead researcher for Communication Technologies at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. "Our radio provides a whole room with wireless high-speed connections; depending on the modulation scheme, ranges of five to six meters [16 to 20 feet] are typical."
IBM has focused on the development of a 60 GHz radio frequency (RF) chip set, one transmitter and one receiver, using its 130-nm BiCMOS silicon germanium (SiGe) process. BiCMOS casts the very fast bipolar transistors needed to generate the 60 GHz frequencies in silicon germanium and the rest of the chip in standard CMOS. The antenna for the millimeter-size wavelengths in this band has also been integrated by IBM into a standard package.
By mating IBM's BiCMOS 60 GHz radio with baseband chips from other suppliers, the company hopes to reduce the cost of implementing gigabyte wireless connections to a price affordable for consumer applications.
"When we started this project, we built a 60 GHz prototype using off-the-shelf gallium arsenide and indium phosphide discrete devices, and it cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per radio," said Soyuer. "Using our BiCMOS process we have reduced that cost by a factor of 100 or more [$100-200 or less]."
IBM has worked to keep its chip set compatible with any baseband application chip and has announced its first deal with a baseband chip provider, MediaTek, a fabless design house in Taiwan that specializes in system-on-chip wireless communications, high-definition television, high-definition DVDs and optical storage.
"For a complete solution you need a baseband chip; our deal with MediaTek will be to jointly develop compatible chip sets to combine our radio with their baseband chip for wireless high-definition television for the digital living room and for high-speed file transfers in the office," said Soyuer.
The joint development effort will result in compatible chip sets using the millimeter-wavelength band that provides about 7 GHz of spectrum centered at 60 GHz for the wireless personal area network (WPAN-IEEE 802.15.3C). The networks will span single rooms, bathing the entire area in short-range millimeter wavelengths, enabling wireless connections among all audio and video components in a room at data rates in excess of two gigabytes per second.