The Continuing Story of Dual-Band

By Eric Griffith

July 16, 2002

California companies Systemonic and Broadcom are among the growing throng bringing 802.11a/b dual-band chips to market before the end of the year.

Taking bets on 802.11a vs. 802.11b is pointless anymore: Soon all products will just support both.

That will be the case if more companies like Broadcom of Irvine, CA, and Systemonic of San Jose and Dresden, Germany, have any say. Both are making available reference designs for products featuring combo-802.11a/b functionality, joining the likes of Synad, Envara, and even Intersil. (Though Systemonic's Director of Corporate Communications Brendan Monahan points out, "Systemonic...was the first in the industry to offer a combo 802.11a+b solution. In addition, Systemonic started sampling to our Alpha and Beta customers back in the first quarter of this year. Thus, our competitors were the ones that followed us.")

Systemonic's Tondelayo dual-band, three-chip solution uses the company's RFlex technology with a programmable DSP chip to get dual 802.11a and b support on a single device. Tondelayo was recently demoed downloading video at Networld+Interop in Tokyo in a PCI Card reference design that would seamlessly roam between separate 802.11b and a access points.

By utilizing a DSP architecture and the proprietary OnDSP baseband platform on the CMOS baseband chip, Systemonic can use firmware or software upgrades to add support for upcoming standards such as 802.11g. The SiGe-created radio chips are currently two different pieces, but will go down to one chip by next year.

Tondelayo is named after a character played by Hedy Lamarr in the 1942 movie "White Cargo" -- the actress actually co-invented spread spectrum "frequency hopping" communication . The Tondelayo technology was acquired by Systemonic with the products and intellectual property of Raytheon's RF Networking group. The current chips are the culmination of Tondelayo integration with Systemonic's own HiperSonic baseband chips.

Prices on Tondelayo chips will likely run $35 in volume; reference designs are available now.

Down the coast, Broadcom is also on track to deliver 802.11a and b on a three-chip set. The company's CMOS design features the Broadcom BCM4309 baseband/medium access control (MAC) integrated circuit (IC) to support both protocols (as well as 802.1X security) and two radio chips: the BCM2050 2.4GHz radio IC and the BCM2060 5GHz radio IC.

The MAC chip has "context-switching functionality," meaning it will chose the protocol and radio band best to use on the fly. Used simultaneously, products with the Broadcom chips can set two network connections, say one to the network and another to an ad hoc client. The chip also includes hardware support for WEP,AES,TKIP, and 802.1X (even 802.11i security when available) and has a built-in V.92 voice modem.

Broadcom has a Mini-PCI reference design available, with PCI, Cardbus, and 16-bit PC Card on the way.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

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