Hybrid chipsets, 10GHz
-band support on the way"> Questions still remain on when Intel will manage to ship a hybrid chipset that bridges Wi-Fi functionality with cellular functions, such as the next-generation CDMA2000 3G telecommunications standard adopted by U.S. providers and the more common W-CDMA standard that European and Asian carriers have adopted. The Friday briefing suggested that may happen in 2005, where Intels roadmap shows "WWAN" components being offered to handset vendors. AT&T recently rolled out 3G wireless in four cities in the U.S. Click here to read more.Typically, a radio is a "dumb" component, tuning itself to whatever frequency the controller demands and passively transmitting and receiving the encoded data. Intels research is currently focusing on agile radios that can communicate over a variety of bandwidths and frequencies, said Ben Manny, director of the radio communications lab within Intels corporate technology group. Future radios, however, will also include cognitive elements to sense and adapt to the available frequencies, such as cellular or Wi-Fi networks. Future reconfigurable radios will actually reconfigure themselves to adapt to various radio schemes, he added. The hybrid wireless picture may grow clearer in two months time, when Intel will make an announcement regarding roaming between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, spokesman Manny Vara said. He declined to provide more details. The idea is that various wireless networks will coexist, not compete, he and other Intel executives said. From a development standpoint, that mandates a chip that can interact with all of the various networks. Meanwhile, Intel has begun developing the software infrastructure needed to manage the evolution of hybrid wireless chipsets. Intels Adaptive Radio Architecture combines two layers: one designed to manage the radios themselves, and an applications layer designed to facilitate functions like handing off a voice-over-IP call to a cellular network. The Adaptive Radio Architecture is being built in to Intels Personal Communicator, a proof-of-concept device that is designed to access streaming multimedia content both over a Wi-Fi LAN as well as a cellular network. "The challenge is how we can use the best of those networks to deliver the best user experience," said Bryan Peebler, senior programs manager for Intels Systems Technology Lab. "This is designed to be able to replace discrete radios and replace them with a small number of programmable radios," Peebler added. At the end of the day Friday, executives showed the progress on the implementation of a 10GHz frequency synthesizer in silicon, which could dial down to a variety of lower frequencies through the use of non-integer divisors. This capability could be critical, as W-CDMA covers both the 1,920MHz-to-1,980MHz and 2,110MHz-to-2,170MHz frequency bands. A collection of devices, in close proximity, all broadcasting at 2,150MHz, for example, would interfere with one another, he said. The oscillator can hop from frequency to frequency, supporting Intels "agile radios." Soumyanath also said that Intel had developed a complete 802.11a transceiver in 90-nm CMOS silicon, as well as a 100GHz oscillator in the same process technology. Like the frequency synthesizer, the oscillator and 802.11a component are designed to show that wireless components can be manufactured on 90-nm silicon. Still, Intel and other chip vendors have suffered growing pains with 90-nm fabrication. The company recently delayed the release of 4GHz Pentium 4s produced in the 90-nm process by at least a quarter. Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at http://wireless.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis.
A wireless chip set typically consists of at least two components: the digital controller and the analog radio. Code-name "Hermon," Intels next-generation embedded controller, will be used to control an external W-CDMA radio and is due to ship next year. Intel has not said whether or not it plans to actually manufacture the 3G radio component itself, spokesman Manny Vara said.