Hot from the oven

From small modules for portable Wi-Fi games players to a low-power GPS chip that could enable cameras to tag images with the location they were taken, we round up the latest chips which keep the hearts of communications devices ticking.

Hot from the oven

These Wi-Fi RF front end modules from SiGe Semiconductor are just 25 square mm each - about one-third of the size typical of the market. This means that two devices can now be used in the footprint previously occupied by one. The SE2547A and SE2548A modules are designed for use in devices where small size is important for portability, such as game consoles, laptops and home access points. They each include power amplifiers, filtering, power detector, diversity switch, diplexers and associated circuitry.

"Customers have confirmed that the SE2547A and the SE2548A are the leading devices currently sampling with this level of integration," claims Jose Harrison, director product marketing, computer and consumer at SiGe Semiconductor. "We are working with these customers on designs that will be on store shelves in Q3 2008," he added.

The SE2548A is equipped with a single antenna port allowing it to be used in two stream by two antenna configuration. The SE2547A, however, provides two antenna ports, allowing two stream by three antenna or two stream by four antenna configurations.

SiGe announced both modules on 22 January. They are in production now, priced at $2.15 and $2.05 in 10,000 unit volumes respectively.

Phyworks has announced the PHY2060, a serial retiming receiver compliant with the Ethernet standard 10GBASE- LRM. Manufactured on a CMOS process, this second-generation Electronic Dispersion Compensation (EDC) chip has been designed to offer a more powerful equaliser and smaller size. It enables upgrade of X2 and XFP optical modules and SFP+ based line cards to 10Gbps LRM operation.

Combining clock data recovery (CDR) and an automatic EDC circuit, the PHY2060 is intended to simplify optical module design. The chip's internal algorithms replace complex microcontroller support and thereby should reduce product development time.

The chip has 36-pin, 5mm x 5mm flip-chip BGA packaging. It includes a PRBS generator and a BER detector. On boot-up, the device automatically selects between the chip's two-wire or serial peripheral interfaces.

Samples and an evaluation board are available. The chip is priced at US$25 in volume.

picoChip unveiled its TD-SCDMA femtocell reference design on 18 January at the UK-China Business Summit 2008. The new design was developed in China at picoChip's Beijing design centre.

TD-SCDMA (Time Division-Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) is a 3G standard being pursued in China; it is expected to launch in the Olympic cities this summer. Femtocells are low-cost basestations for deployment inside buildings to improve coverage and data rates.

"Femtocells are an important part of the TD-SCDMA ecosystem, and an essential part of operator strategy, particularly as we evolve to TD-SCDMA LTE," says Yang Hua, the secretary general of TD-SCDMA Industry Alliance. "picoChip's achievement significantly pushes the TD-SCDMA industry forward," he adds.

Stuart Carlaw, research director ABI Research, says: "Femtocells help carriers solve problems of both coverage and capacity which are applicable to all standards, including TD-SCDMA. Given how good coverage already is in China for mobile services, consumers will expect excellent indoor services too, something that is particularly important for data, which is already in high use in the region. For both these reasons, I'd expect TD-SCDMA femtocells to be later in deployment, but to ramp as fast if not faster than those for WCDMA."

picoChip recently partnered with Xinwei for the implementation of its McWILL network, to be deployed for the Olympics.

Air Semiconductor revealed on 24 January the company's first product, the Airwave-1 chip, a low-power GPS chip. It is designed to continuously track the user's location and provide instant location updates with negligible power drain. The company says that Airwave-1 requires as little as 1 per cent of the power required by current GPS solutions and consumes only 1mA when continuously tracking. Samples will be available in the summer of 2008.

Co-founders David Tester (pictured above) and Stephen Graham and their team spent the last 18 months developing their technology. The company is backed by Pond Venture Partners and is already in initial discussions with several digital camera manufacturers. 

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