Californian company Pulse~LINK has been developing ultrawideband systems for four years, and has recently closed a $30m venture capital funding deal. It has just announced a new chipset that will add gigabit networking to cable modems and can also send data over the mains at 200 megabits -- all at the same time.
ZDNet UK spoke to Watkins about the physics and politics of creating new markets.
Can you give us some more technical information on the chipset you've announced today?
This afternoon we take possession of the first test silicon for our Radio Frequency (RF) analogue chip. The chipset is a two-chip solution, with the RF analogue chip taking it down to base-band. The digital chip does channel routing, the MAC and so on, but the RF chip is the more complex chip. We'll be doing everything we can to speed things up but at the moment we plan on getting the digital part by October or November, and we will have re-spun the RF part by then. We could get lucky and have no changes to make on the RF chip, but we're not betting on it. The digital chip is easier to simulate, and we can make test version from programmable parts and discrete logic.
And what's this new chipset designed to do exactly?
We've demonstrated ultrawideband in the past over wireless, over cable systems and over the power supply network -- powerline networking. The unique thing we haven't talked about in the past is that the architecture that we're going with will let all three happen simultaneously with the same chip -- and it will be a good platform for additional things in the future.
The design pushes digital as far into the transmit and receive chain as it can, with multi-gigasample analogue to digital and digital to analogue circuits on the chip. We convert the radio signal to digital as quickly as we can when receiving, and leave the transmit signal as digital for as long as we can before actually transmitting it. This forms an architecture that can be updated in software -- cognitive radio, in other words. If we want to put in either of the 802.15.3a UWB proposals, we can do it in software. We can accommodate Wi-Fi and any additional functionality, pretty much as far as we can see into the future, through software.
We'll be able to do anything through the antenna up from DC [0 Hz] to 6GHz, that's the top design frequency of the RF chip. Within those ranges, Powerline is DC to 30 MHz, Cable is DC-50MHz upstream, downstream 50-750MHz, but we can add higher frequencies. Wireless UWB is 3.1 to 5GHz, but we can go to 6GHz, leaving enough space to do 802.11a, if desired. It's not in our initial plan but we can do it if we like, although not simultaneously with the UWB functions -- they'd have to be unloaded.
We can't say too much about the performance at the moment, but across the system the gain is around 50 percent higher than either of the UWB proposals require.