Wireless Systems Design

Three-Transceiver Mimo Integrated Circuit Boosts Bandwidths

Users have an insatiable need for bandwidth. As a result, wireless-product OEMs are looking to incorporate data rates that are higher than those permitted by existing 802.11a/g standards. Some are eyeing the emerging Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) standard, which is also known as 802.11n. It promises to achieve data rates of more than 200 Mbps. To aid in their quest, Athena Semiconductors and Samsung Electronics' Digital Media R&D Center have developed a three-transceiver RF device for MIMO in a single IC.

The tight integration of the single device, called Trini, brings multiple advantages to OEMs. Other MIMO implementations require multiple devices and therefore a larger footprint. In contrast, the Trini IC boasts a footprint that rivals the size of existing legacy wireless-standard footprints.

At the heart of Trini is Athena's OptimRF technology. This technology uses a modified direct-conversion architecture that's designed for extensive digital calibration at the system level. Athena developed the OptimRF technology to build high-performance CMOS RF transceivers at low cost. To achieve cost targets, it began stressing high functional-device yields.

MIMO uses multiple transmitters and receivers (antennas) within wireless devices for much stronger bandwidth performance. The use of multiple transceivers results in multiple simultaneous data streams, which increases the overall data rate. While the IEEE's existing 802.11a/g standards deliver bandwidths of up to 54 Mbps, the 802.11n standard is being defined to achieve data rates approaching 500 Mbps.

Samsung has participated in the IEEE 802.11 Task Group N, the committee that's developing the 802.11n standard. The task group's objective is to define modifications to the physical layer and medium-access-control layer (PHY/MAC) to deliver a minimum of 100 Mbps throughput at the MAC Service Access Point. This minimum throughput requirement represents an approximate 4X leap in WLAN throughput performance compared with today's 802.11a/g networks.

Devices like Trini are expected to significantly lower the cost, area, and power consumption of 802.11n standard-based implementations and to help fuel the standard's growth. Athena and Samsung demonstrated Trini technology at last month's Consumer Electronics Show by generating consistent data-link throughputs of more than 50 Mbps. A transmission of two simultaneous HDTV streams and a single standard-definition television stream highlighted the IC's feature set.

The Trini IC will be available from Athena Semiconductors to select OEM and original-design-manufacturer (ODM) partners in the first quarter. The device will be in mass production for the broader market in the second quarter. Pricing will vary by quantity.

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