Single Chip Supports 802.11a, b, and g

Envara, a fabless semiconductor company with offices in California and Israel, today announced that it is sampling engineering silicon for its EN303 radio frequency chip that will support the current 802.11b and 802.11a standards, plus have support for 802.11g when it is available, all on a single chip.

“We feel it’s the first effective chip to serve all,” says Paul Nurflus, Envara’s vice president of business development. ” We have it working in our lab, the performance is very satisfactory.”

The EN303 will support 2.4GHz 802.11b with Complementary Code Keying (CCK) modulation (backwards compatible and based upon the DSSS modulation in most Wi-Fi systems), 5GHz 802.11a with OFDM modulation, and based on the current draft from the IEEE 2.4GHz 802.11g with OFDM modulation.

Nurflus pointed out the EN303 is already “future proofed” to support extra channels for 802.11a that are being proposed by the Japanese government (four channels in 4.9-5.0GHz bands and three in 5.03-5.09GHz). It’s already set to operate in 4.9-5.8GHz.

The chip supports a patent-pending Zero Loss Front End design based on Envara’s WiND502 WLAN chip set that gets rid of switches off chip and incorporates them on the chip to reduce power and enhance receiver sensitivity. EN303 also features a self-calibration function during power-on that communicates with the OFDM modem to modify signals as needed. It also uses Envara’s Enhanced Zero-IF (EZ-IF) technology to convert signals to and from 2.4 or 5GHz in one step, again reducing need for off-chip components. More technical details can be found on Envara’s Web site.

The EN303 is not CMOS based. It is instead made using IBM’s silicon germanium (SiGe) process. Nurflus admits SiGe is more expensive, but feels the yield is higher and will be for some time.

“When you look at the number of dies you get from one wafer, we feel the price advantage is in favor of SG,” says Nurflus. “This may change in the future, but for right now, (at least one or two years), SG gives you better control over time to market.”

While not available to OEMs quite yet, the EN303 chip is sampling to “alpha partners,” mostly in the far eat, and will be demonstrated this month at shows in Japan and Taiwan, and at September’s Networld+Interop in Atlanta, GA. Samples, reference designs, and software drivers should begin shipping from Envara in early 2003.

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