JEDEC is drafting several standards aimed at replacing the mini-PCI wireless LAN card in order to improve perform-ance and open the market to greater competition, according to industry executives speaking at last week's JEDEX conference here.
The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association JC61 committee is expected to complete several draft standards in the second half of the year that define a variety of new interfaces between the baseband and MAC and RF portions of WLAN chipsets.
The new standards are expected to create greater competition by allowing the mixing and matching of WLAN baseband, MAC, and RF chips from different suppliers, according to Patrick Yu, marketing director at ALi Microelectronics Corp. USA, San Jose, a subsidiary of Taiwan's Acer Laboratories Inc.
Yoran Solomon, director of WLAN business development at Texas Instruments Inc. in Santa Rosa, Calif., said that in PC applications, all of the proposed JEDEC standards would allow designers to move the radio closer to the system antenna to eliminate the relatively long coaxial cable now used to connect the mini-PCI card to the PC antenna.
Solomon said one draft slated to be completed in the third quarter would define a new interface between the baseband and RF. A separate draft standard, expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, would define a new interface between the baseband and MAC.
Yet another proposal would divide the MAC into a so-called Upper MAC for nontime-critical functions, like encryption, and a Lower MAC for time-critical operations, such as turning the transmitter on and off. The Lower MAC could be placed along with the baseband and RF close to the antenna, while the Upper MAC could be placed elsewhere in the PC box.
Solomon said Hewlett-Packard Co. has proposed locating all WLAN segments close to the antenna, while performing the Upper MAC functions in software rather than hardware.
Panelists speaking on the subject at the JEDEX conference agreed that the WLAN mini-PCI card as it exists today should be replaced. Patrick Green, a fellow at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in the Sunnyvale, Calif., company's mobile communications solutions group, said the long coaxial cable in PCs that connects the mini-PCI card to the antenna causes thermal problems, RF interfer-ence, and consumes too much power.
"The mini-PCI card has been a good steppingstone, but new standard interfaces are needed between the baseband and MAC and RF," Green said.
Green suggested that the MAC and baseband could become part of the PC core-logic chipset's south bridge I/O. "We would now have a digital connection to the RF, which would be less susceptible to interference," he said.
ALi's Yu said that integrating the digital baseband and MAC functions into the PC south bridge chipset "makes a lot of sense and could cut costs."
Solomon said TI is working to integrate the baseband and MAC with the RF on a single chip for higher performance and lower cost.