Startups Aim At WiMAX Heavyweights

Two startups will introduce WiMAX-related products this week in the hope their voice can be heard above the big guns such as Intel and Fujitsu.

October 31, 2005

3 Min Read
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Manhasset, N.Y. — As two startups fighting to be heard above the big WiMax guns of Intel and Fujitsu, Sequans Communications and Wavesat Inc. this week will separately announce a chip set and a mini-PCI card reference kit designed to accelerate WiMax development and deployment. The announcements come a week after the two vendors commenced WiMax certification testing.

"The market is at a stage now where it can go to high volume," said Vijay Dube, vice president of business development at Wavesat (Dorval, Quebec). "This is the first mini-PCI card design and it will accelerate the design and deployment of WiMax CPE [customer premises equipment]." Dube expects Asian ODMs to quickly ramp up the volume of WiMax CPE and drive costs down.

The reference kit marries Wavesat's DM256 baseband chip with an RF Magic front end for 3.5-GHz operation. The company will support the media-access control (MAC) layer in software. Wavesat is also working with SiGe Semiconductor for an RF front end. The kit will support both time-division duplex and half-frequency-division duplex operation.

While Wavesat's physical-layer baseband was announced in January, Sequans Communications (Cupertino, Calif.) made its silicon debut earlier this month with the SQN2010 and SQN1010 baseband-plus-MAC chips for basestations and CPE, respectively. "We got silicon back in September and it works," said Bernard Aboussouan, vice president of marketing and business development at Sequans.

Manufactured in a 0.13-micron Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. CMOS process, the chips are an ARM926 processor and the baseband processing. The SQN2010 basestation chip adds another ARM926 for customer applications. RF front-end partners include Sierra Monolithics and RF Magic.The two chips perform many MAC functions in hardware to offload the ARM, including encryption, redundancy checks, fragmentation and packet header parsing. Additional functions supported in the 2010 include subchannelization, space-time coding and maximal-ratio combining. "Most [companies] are only talking about supporting these, but no one has done it yet," said Aboussouan.

The 2010 comes in a 31 x 31-mm BGA package and consumes between 1.5 and 2.5 watts. The 1010 comes in a 23 x 23-mm BGA and consumes 1 to 2 W. Like the Wavesat devices, the Sequans chips sell for $35 each in quantities of 10,000 pieces.

The Wavesat reference design consumes a total of 2.5 W. The reference kit is priced at $50,000 and the company expects a mini-PCI card based on the design to cost between $60 and $70.

Now that both companies have their cards on the table, their next steps involve increasing their customer bases and developing their road maps to 802.16e/WiBro, the fully mobile broadband endgame for those following the WiMax path. Wavesat's Dube expects the WiBro standard to be ratified at the end of this month.

Sequans cites Airspan and Cambridge Broadband as customers; Wavesat points to VCom, Edom and WaveIP.In terms of road maps, Sequans expects to have an FPGA-based 802.16e implementation by the first half of 2006 and final silicon a year later. Wavesat expects to be up and running with basic 802.16e mobility in early 2007, with full mobility by 2009.

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