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Wisair Releases Wireless USB Hub Design

This week, Wisair announced the release of its Wireless USB hub reference design, created to help manufacturers build Wireless USB hubs for universal serial bus devices. Together with the Wisair USB host dongle that the company announced in August of this year, the design provides an end-to-end solution for Wireless USB.

Wisair was founded in May of 2001, and has offices in Israel, the U.S. and Japan, as well as technical support teams in Korea and Taiwan. According to Serdar Yurdakul, Wisair’s Director of Business Development and Marketing, they’ve been demonstrating ultrawideband (UWB) solutions of one kind or another since late 2002; their first Wireless USB demo was done in February of 2004.

The company’s first-generation RF chip was released in March of 2004, and its first baseband was finished in October of the same year. “We built and shipped close to 140 development systems based on that device set,” Yurdakul says. “If you go to any demo at various different shows, you will still see our development system based on this chipset being demonstrated by the Intels and Phillips and NECs of the world.”

In Production

Wisair’s second-generation chipset was finalized in June of 2005. Yurdakul says that chipset, which includes the 531 baseband and MAC and the 502 RF front-end, is essentially a production candidate. “Naturally, we believe that in the future we will have to do a single chip – in fact, we will tape our single-chip CMOS in the first quarter of next year,” he says.

Still, Yurdakul says the two-chip SiGe/CMOS combination, the 531 with the 502, is currently the best option available. “What is important at this stage is the cost, performance and power consumption,” he says. “We really believe that the SiGe/CMOS pair gives the best performance, and there is no cost penalty.”

With the announcement of the Wireless USB dongle and hub, Yurdakul says, manufacturers can start to build complete Wireless USB solutions. “Wireless USB, naturally, will be native in the PC and in devices eventually, but to support your existing PCs and laptops and all the millions of USB devices out there – the cameras and hard disks and printers – you have to start with a wired adapter concept,” he says.

Going Global

Yurdakul says Wisair currently has more than 40 customers in the process of developing products, including both OEMs and ODMs. Using the company’s reference designs, he says, more than a dozen OEMs and ODMs should be in production early next year. “The pressure of commercializing this technology is here today,” he says.

The biggest remaining challenge, Yurdakul says, lies in getting ultrawideband technology approved outside the United States. “We’ve been spending a lot of time on the regulatory domain,” he says. “And to our surprise, Japan and Europe actually gave us a green light for ultrawideband – utilizing a similar envelope to the FCC’s, with some stipulations.”

Those stipulations, Yurdakul says, mostly have to do with protecting incumbent services like WiMax or upcoming 4G, using detect-and-avoid (DAA) schemes. “In September, our CTO and our engineering team put together a DAA demo, and we showed it to regulators at an ETSI meeting – and we received a very, very good reaction,” he says.

A Hub Design

The aim of the reference design announced this week, Yurdakul says, is to provide a way for manufacturers and end users to transition from wired USB to Wireless USB. Not only can the hub be used to connect legacy wired USB devices, he says, it can also be built into larger, wall-powered consumer devices like camera cradles, printers or hard disks.

The current design supports 480 Mbps at about 3-5 meters, or 100-200 Mbps at 10-12 meters, and includes built-in rejection capability with 802.11 and Bluetooth devices. “Since they’re narrowband and very high power compared to us, their energy can leak into our band,” he says. “So we preemptively designed rejection for it so that they don’t impact our performance.”

In the coming year, Yurdakul says, Wisair is in a good position to help drive the launch of UWB devices into the market. And the growing competition from other UWB companies, he says, is a good thing. “From a business and technical point of view, we want to create a good, solid edge for ourselves, while we believe the competition will help the technology take off much faster than it would otherwise,” he says.