New chipset promises gigabit broadband on cable and wireless

A chipset designed by ultrawideband startup Pulse~LINK is claimed to do gigabit cable connections, gigabit wireless and networking over the mains - all at the same time

A chipset that can simultaneously support gigabit wireless, gigabit cable access and 200-megabit networking over power lines has been announced by Pulse~LINK.

The US company said that it has received first test silicon for the design, with production scheduled for mid-2005, and that it is intended to cope with any radio standard currently in use. "We'll be able to do anything from DC to 6GHz," company president and COO Bruce Watkins told ZDNet UK. "We can use any of the proposed wireless ultrawideband (UWB) standards, at the same time as adding UWB-based access to cable and mains electricity systems."

Click here to read the full interview with Bruce Watkins.

The company has previously demonstrated both these novel applications of UWB, and plans to deploy its design initially in conjunction with existing service providers. In theory this would allow a cable operator to provide customers with a cable box delivering ultrafast broadband while simultaneously providing local wireless connectivity to the rest of the home.

Unusually, the design is completely reprogrammable and is one of the first mainstream software-defined cognitive radios -- a general purpose radio processor. "We anticipate future evolutions implemented on this same chip to be able to support and deliver narrowband carrier signals such as Wi-Fi, WiMax, or any flavour of IEEE 802.15.3a wireless UWB standard as well," said John Santhoff, chief technical officer. "Because it is driven by software, such evolution will not require any modifications to the chipset's hardware architecture and will purely be a matter of software or firmware upgrades."

Built around specialist company Jazz Semiconductor's silicon-germanium (SiGe) 150GHz, 180nm process, the chip will be low power yet offer higher performance than the current specifications for UWB require, Pulse~LINK says. It will be demonstrating prototype systems at a forthcoming International Telecommunications Union (ITU) meeting in Boston next month, where it will also announce the first details of an industry association intended to standardise the integration of multiple UWB functions into single devices. "It'll be like Bluetooth," said Watkins, "We're aiming for a broad range of partnerships to explore standardisation, before taking a proposal to industry standards bodies".

The company declined to discuss pricing, saying that it would be reducing cost as the design neared production.