Neul hopes to have a few thousand of its chips back from the fab early this summer based on a second spin of its design. If all goes well, first systems using them could appear by the end of the year.
So far, no one else has announced plans to make chips based on the Weightless SIG’s spec. Cambridge Silicon Radio is the only other chip maker currently in the alliance.
“We’re talking to other chip set vendors, and I’m pretty hopeful two or three will join up in the next few months,” Webb said, noting Neul is willing to license its technology.
In terms of regulations, the U.S. has been a pioneer in opening up TV white spaces. Four or five companies have certified databases of available sub-bands in local areas and a similar amount of equipment companies have been certified to use them.
“That’s pretty promising,” said Webb, noting the US will hold a spectrum auction in 2014 that might force adjustments in what bands are available. “But there’s no sense the government will take away so much spectrum this won’t work."
Beyond the U.S., Canada said it will pursue a similar path, but is a year or so behind. Many Asian countries from Japan to Singapore are studying the issues. The European Commission is not expected to rule on the spectrum until 2015 and “China is a big unknown,” said Webb, a former director of technology in the UK regulatory office.
The Weightless SIG’s documents specify a proprietary protocol “to keep overheads low,” Webb said. “But effectively it’s a data pipe, so if people want Internet Protocol, it’s OK to layer it on top,” he said.
The smallest packet allowed under IP is 128 bytes, but most M2M communications only need about 50 bytes per transmission, he said.
On the following page we provide a preview of some select details about the new Weightless spec.