Ultrawideband (UWB) semiconductor company Artimi this week announced that it had taped out what it says is the first RF silicon to support both low band (3-5 GHz) and high band (6-9 GHz) UWB in the same device. The aim is to offer a single solution that can remain compliant with all UWB regulations as they emerge worldwide.
Colin Macnab, Artimi’s CEO, says the Bluetooth SIG’s recent announcement that it had selected WiMedia’s UWB technology for high speed applications – and specifically in the 6-9 GHz range – was welcome news for Artimi. “The Bluetooth SIG’s adoption of the WiMedia UWB PHY operating in the high band above 6 GHz will enable even a greater number of applications for our products,” Macnab says.
The point, Macnab says, is that most U.S.-based (and U.S.-focused) UWB companies have been targeting the low band at 3-5 GHz, not the high band – while international (i.e. non-U.S.) regulators have chosen specifically to approve the 6-9 GHz range, not 3-5 GHz, for UWB. “They’ve been driven very heavily by the 3G, 4G and WiMax crowd to basically ban it without any form of mitigation from the 3-5 GHz region,” he says.
Macnab says Artimi seems to have been alone in anticipating the growth of high band UWB. “We have been working for some time on development of a radio that worked in both bands, because we firmly believed that that’s what would happen,” he says. “I think we’re the only Euro-centric firm in the class of ultrawideband startups – as a result, we were less fixated by what the FCC wanted.”
Another key differentiator for Artimi is the fact that the company is specifically focused on supporting handheld, battery powered consumer electronics, not Wireless USB or other PC-based applications – which results in a focus on balancing high data rate with low power demand. To that end, Macnab says, Artimi’s design also includes an applications processor, since most handheld devices require that kind of additional support.
With the usual handheld product cycle taking about a year to 18 months, Macnab anticipates that Artimi’s products will start appearing in handhelds in mid-2007. “We’ll show up inside cameras, MP3 players, camcorders, those type of products in the second half of the selling season for ’07, based on the designs that we give them this year,” he says.
In the meantime, Macnab says, Artimi will be working with ODMs in Taiwan to release Wireless USB dongles before the end of 2006 – but the company’s focus is on taking advantage of its ability to support both high- and low-band UWB in the handheld market.
“It’s a lonely path when you come up with a visionary plan of why you want to do something,” Macnab says. “But then every now and again, you get a little opportunity to put your hand up and say, ‘See, I told you it was the correct thing for the industry to be doing!’”