Bridging The Wireless Gap, Texas-Style

By Michael Singer

December 10, 2003

Texas Instruments builds a combination Bluetooth/802.11 OMAP chipset and addresses next-generation CDMA processors with partner STMicro.

Texas Instruments is fortifying its position in the wireless Internet world with a slew of announcements.

The Dallas-based company has announced a new "all-in-one" chipset it said would help bridge the gap in network standards between Bluetooth and 802.11 technologies , commonly referred to as Wi-Fi.

The chipmaker is also teaming up with previous partner STMicroelectronics on developing a standard CDMA2000 1xEV-DV (Evolution for Data and Voice) processor and accompanying testing software.

With the growth of mobile devices, more and more manufacturers are combining wireless standards including Wi-Fi , Bluetooth, CDMA, GSM and GPRS to address customer needs. Combining technologies in a device like a smartphone or a PDA is not new, but there are not that many chip manufacturers that combine wireless technologies under one roof. The problem is that some of the technologies are disparate and actually drain power from each other.

With that in mind, TI is approaching its wireless strategy with a focus on original design manufacturers (ODM) in addition to the traditional OEM model.

"What we are seeing are more and more are manufacturers that want their solutions to come from one source," TI Short Distance Wireless Group worldwide marketing manager Ariel Moshkovitz told internetnews.com. "The concerns used to be about power consumption, size and cost. Now ODMs are getting into the picture and their needs are more focused on price and complete solutions. Our pitch is that TI is a one-stop-shop that lets ODMs save money and bring their designs to market faster."

Much faster apparently. The current industry trend for mobile devices is somewhere between 12 and 24 months from design to delivery. Moshkovitz said with their chipsets in motion, Hewlett-Packard managed to deliver their h4150 and h350 iPAQ Pocket PCs in less than 18 months.

In order to help other companies, TI released its second-generation BRF6100 chipset. The BRF6150 is Bluetooth v1.2 compliant, which supports Adaptive Frequency Hopping (AFH) and Extended Synchronous Connection-Oriented (eSCO) environments for temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees Celsius to nearly 85 degrees Celsius. The thinking is that the chipsets can be used in mobile terminals and other environments.

"Bluetooth has a strong showing in mobile headsets, smartphones and PDAs," Moshkovitz said. "Going forward, we see Bluetooth in environments like imaging, gaming, messaging and MP3. That is the second wave. Beyond that, we expect it to move into streaming and m-commerce applications."

TI is also looking beyond Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for other wireless technologies to conquer.

For example, the STMicro and TI plan is the latest swipe at getting CDMA market share away from its inventor, QUALCOMM .

The two companies said they will develop CDMA2000 1xEV-DV components for mobile Internet handsets and jointly market the components to manufacturers with samples expected in early 2004.

The technology is expected to allow broadband capabilities via cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices with typical sector throughput ranging from 420 kilobits-per-second to 1.7 megabits-per-second (Mbps) and peak data rates up to 3.1 Mbps. TI said that's Internet connectivity at ten times the speeds of the CDMA2000 1x and GPRS chipsets currently on the market.

"Clearly TI and ST have become very aggressive in the CDMA chipset market," said Will Strauss, president of research firm Forward Concepts. "CDMA wireless shipments are dominant in the U.S. and have been growing in worldwide market share, making this an attractive market for both companies."

TI is also moving aggressively to develop new materials for its semiconductors. Not one to sit back and let IBM, AMD and Intel have all the fun with next-generation chips, the company Tuesday said it will introduce a new high-k dielectric material -- Hafnium Silicon Oxynitride (HfSiON) -- in its future transistors. The material is reportedly considered a better conductor of electricity and one that retains more power than the present silicon oxynitride layer. The company said it is preparing its fabs for the migration.



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