TAIPEI — Chipmakers insist they will enable much cheaper, and far more reliable wireless USB systems in the market by the end of this year, with at least one promising $99 dongle and hub packages will be on retail shelves.
"Ninety-nine dollars is a no-brainer point where you put two of those things in a blister pack and hang it by the register. People will see it and be willing to buy it," said Artimi Inc. chief executive Colin Macnab, during an interview with EE Times at this week's Computex trade show in Taiwan.
To hit that, chipmakers need to grind down their pricing so that a dongle/hub bill of materials comes in at around $40. Not surprisingly, pricing has been one of the major complaints from ultra cost-conscious Taiwan system makers this week, who don't believe that systems selling above $150 will fly, especially since wired USB systems sell for less than $10.
A close second to cost were complaints about throughput performance. System makers are well aware of the commercial failure of the first ultrawideband-based wireless USB system by Belkin, which had poor throughput.
Most demos at the show only achieved about 30Mbits to 50Mbits per second of throughput, well off the 150Mbits to 200Mbits that can be squeezed out of a 480Mbit per second physical layer. "That's a problem. Chipset vendors cannot reach the speeds that users expect. The minimum should be 100Mbits," said Kevin Chiu, a product line manager at Gemtek Technology Co., a major peripheral maker in Taiwan.
Some chipmakers don't expect things to substantially improve in the short term and blame having to use legacy wired USB protocols. "The first part of the market is going to be the add-ons and the biggest challenge to the add-ons is that you are going through a wired USB software architecture, which sucketh greatly," Macnab said.
USB dongles and hubs that hit the retail market by the end of this year will probably see throughput range from 70Mbits to 100Mbits, said Yun Han, vice president of Asia sales for Alereon, Inc.
Phil Yang, director of the UWB business unit at Realtek Semiconductor, said, "When PC makers embed the PCI express module in the laptop, probably in Q1 or Q2 of next year, then we will definitely see more than 100Mbits."
Artimi demoed a chipset that it claims tops out at about 120Mbits per second over USB.