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Wi-Fi & WiMax on a Single Chip

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This week, TeleCIS Wireless announced a plan to enter the WiMax market by developing System-on-a-Chip (SoC) solutions that combine both Wi-Fi and WiMax technologies.

The company’s fixed WiMax chip is planned for release in the second half of 2005, with a combined fixed/mobile WiMax chip to follow in the second half of 2006. In 2007, the company expects to offer a “converged” SoC chipset, which will combine fixed WiMax, mobile WiMax, and 802.11a, b, and g.

David Sumi, TeleCIS’ vice president of marketing, says the aim is to offer a solution that covers all aspects of wireless technology. “Just like your cell phone is a multi-band, multi-protocol system today, we believe that in the future, broadband wireless is going to need to be multi-protocol,” he says. “And when we speak of multi-protocol, for the next two to three years, we’re speaking of 802.11 and 802.16.”

In order to support the growth of WiMax along with the expansion of hotspots and hotzones, Sumi says, a multi-protocol solution will be crucial. “If WiMax gets into the wireless LAN space, then what you’re going to have is an evolution,” he says. “You’re going to need dual-mode access points, because not everybody’s going to flip over right away. The idea is that the end user device—the laptop, the PDA, possibly the cell phone—is enabled in many, many different environments.”

The challenges of putting all of these technologies on a single chip, Sumi says, are well within TeleCIS’ grasp. “We have 802.11 designs, and we’re building our second OFDM modem design that’s going to be WiMax compliant,” he says. “This is not a technical challenge for us. It’s an execution challenge, to be sure—but technologically, this is something that’s well within our capability.”

The announcement marks a shift in strategy for the company, both in that it’s moving from Wi-Fi to WiMax and in that TeleCIS has thus far been licensing its intellectual property to others, but will be now be building the actual SoC chips. “The change is really from licensing IP and 802.11 to a broader drive for broadband mobility,” Sumi says.

A key focus for TeleCIS in developing these solutions, Sumi says, is to reduce the component cost. “The bill of materials using our approach would be under $100, versus many of the designs from the bigger companies that are being rushed to market and are not quite as efficient—the bill of materials in many of those product is going to be closer to $200,” he says. “And we think this is a critical difference. With our bill of materials, a system vendor can put a CPE out there that’s actually going to enable the market.”

The company’s technical strengths, Sumi adds, combine with the lower cost to make TeleCIS’ products particularly competitive. “We have a suite of technologies that yield anywhere from 12 to 17 dB of additional gain compared to a standard WiMax product,” he says.

The company’s tagline is “Bridging Broadband & Mobility,” which Sumi says remains a challenge in the industry today.

“There is no technology today that brings those two together, and it’s our belief that by having multi-protocol WiMax mobile / WiMax fixed / 802.11 chip, we’re going to bridge broadband and mobility,” he says. “You’re going to have broadband connections wherever you are.”

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