Establishing a "Gold Standard" for UWB

By Jeff Goldman

May 30, 2006

Tzero and Tektronix plan to test ultrawideband performance.

Last week, chipmaker Tzero Technologies announced that it is working with testing company Tektronix to establish a “gold standard” for ultrawideband (UWB) equipment testing. The aim is to offer a test for UWB that verifies superior performance and reliability. The two companies will be demonstrating the test equipment at the upcoming Wireless USB Developers Conference in San Jose.

Dan Karr, Tzero’s senior vice president of marketing and Sales, says the objective of the testing is to highlight the higher performance of his company’s UWB solution, which is designed to enable wireless transmission of broadcast quality video. “That’s unusual in the wireless space in general, but also in UWB,” he says.

Tzero’s efforts, Karr says, are focused on meeting the needs of leading consumer electronics (CE) companies. “In June of 2003, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp and Sony made a presentation to the IEEE 802.15 and said, ‘This is what we need for consumer electronics: we need link reliability of 95 percent, and we really want more than 98 percent; we need a 10-8 packet error rate; we need to be very interference-resistant from all kinds of devices; we want multiple streams of high definition content at at least 10 meters; and then the whole point of wireless is that it’s easy to install,’” he says.

Since that was the same year that Tzero was founded, Karr says, company founder Rajeev Krishnamoorthy took the opportunity to meet with those companies, discussed the requirements they had put forward, and used those requirements as the design criteria for Tzero’s chips.

In addition to meeting or exceeding the CE companies’ stated requirements, Karr says, key to Tzero’s offering is the fact that the solution includes the RF, the MAC and the PHY. “That’s given us the ability to really enhance the performance,” he says. “If you do a partial implementation, like PHY and RF, you can’t get all the quality of service elements that you need to be able to address broadcast quality video – so taking on the complete challenge was really fundamental to our enabling the video market.”

That market, Karr says, is likely to commence with a focus on connecting flat panel displays to personal video recorders, set top boxes and gaming consoles. “Then, over time, as the power comes down on the chipsets that are available, and as the fixed component CE devices become more prevalent, we’ll start to see this adopted into notebooks, camcorders, speakers, iPods, things like that,” he says.

The only real competition that Tzero has in this space, Karr suggests, is a wired solution – but wired, of course, can’t hold a candle to UWB’s flexibility and ease of installation. “A lot of people assume 802.11n is the first alternative,” he says. “It certainly addresses the ease of installation point, but it hasn’t been designed for broadcast quality video – and we don’t think people are going to be willing to suffer in quality in exchange for the ease of installation.”

The nice thing about a solution like Tzero’s, Karr says, is that seeing is believing. “We see this as a market where, if you don’t meet the needs, it becomes apparent very quickly, and it’s apparent to everyone,” he says. “It doesn’t take a lot of specialized knowledge to figure that out.”

In addition to meeting the CE companies’ needs, Karr says, Tzero’s solution meets the WiMedia Alliance’s requirements for interoperability. “We hope that the WiMedia Alliance will be announcing interoperability success here in a couple of weeks,” he says. “And we can be at one end of the link and still give better performance than using other solutions – we don’t have to be at both ends of the link.”

Karr says Tzero plans to have the solution available in production volumes by July. “The availability is going to start with dongle type solutions and media adapters, and we hope to see some of those on the market this fall,” Karr says. “Then we think it’ll be integrated into systems from the top tier consumer electronics companies in the second half of next year – they tend to have about a one-year design cycle.”

According to Rajeev Krishnamoorthy, now the company’s CTO, the announcement with Tektronix offers the added credibility of a third party’s perspective on Tzero’s solution – and it also serves as a challenge, he says, to the company’s competitors. “Customers can use this to validate how good the other offerings from other vendors are, using us a base comparison,” Krishnamoorthy says.

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