Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CMOS radio chips reached 5Gbit/s

Australian researchers have created a low-cost CMOS radio that can transmit 5 Gbits/s over about 30 feet, holding out the promise of cheaper Gigabit Ethernet radio in the mid-range future.

The new radio, from researchers at National ICT Australia (NICTA), is not the first Gigabit-wireless device using millimetre wave technology. However it is the first to do so with a single CMOS chip (in its case a 60GHz chip).

This raises the possibility of much lower costs for the chip itself and for embedding the chip into a range of wireless products compared to other semiconductor technologies. According to several news sources, the chip is about $US9 (£4.50).

Most other Gigabit Ethernet radios, such as from BridgeWave Communications, tend to be used in longer-range, point-to-point connections, often as alternatives to leased T-3 lines. Applying millimetre-wave technology to wireless LANs is drawing the interest of big companies and start-ups such as NewLANS.

Australia's huge Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is also working on 10Gbit/s in the 80GHz band.

Backed by a group of well-known chip-makers and consumer electronics vendors, WiHD is a digital interface that runs in the 60GHz band, delivers 4Gbit/s, a range of about 30 feet, and secure content protection. At CES, Panasonic and SiBeam showed the WiHD link streaming uncompressed high-definition video between a TV screen and a Blu-ray disk player.

That's the kind of "in-room", short-range application targeted by NICTA's Gigabit wireless research. The organisation reportedly plans to spin off the research, raise funding and create a commercial version of the chip.

According to one report, it will take about $10 million, about one year to create production samples, and three years to produce in volume, a claim that some web pundits such as Joel Hruska at Arstechnica find wildly optimistic. Hruska also points out that the NICTA chip draws 2 watts of power, which is an unfeasible demand for battery-powered handhelds.

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