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Pulse-Link Intros Über UWB

Ultrawideband startup Pulse-Link Inc. today says it has taken delivery of its first “Software Defined Cognitive Radio” test silicon, which it claims will support wireless LAN applications at rates of up to 1 Gbit/s (see Pulse-Link Touts UWB Chip).

Although pitched as an ultrawideband (UWB) play, Pulse-Link’s RF chip -- implemented on Jazz Semiconductor’s SiGe 120 process -- can support many different types of physical-layer modulation depending on the software it’s running, says chief technology officer John Santhoff.

“We anticipate this same chip to be able to support and deliver narrowband carrier signals such as WiFi, WiMax, or any flavor of IEEE 802.15.3a wireless UWB standard as well,” he comments. “Because it is driven by software, such evolution will not require any modifications to the chipset hardware architecture and will purely be a matter of software/firmware upgrades.”

This focus on software-defined radio puts Pulse-Link in the "out there” category of UWB silicon designers, contrasting with the less ambitious, singlemode chips being developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.15.3a task group, the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), and the UWB Forum for sub-10 meter range applications, such as USB cable replacement.

This extra functionality is, however, likely going to come at a higher cost than the $15 per unit that other UWB chipset developers are projecting for next year (see UWB Startups Gone Wild).

“We don’t see it initially in high-volume, consumer electronics, peripheral devices, and we’re going to be more expensive than, say, a WiFi chip, but how much higher we just don’t know yet,” says CEO Bruce Watkins. “We won’t establish price points until later this year.”

Pulse-Link expects to release its chipset commercially in mid-2005 and will initially focus on markets that can absorb a higher price point, such as high-rate wireless LAN in the government security sector (up to 1 Gbit/s using the 3.1 GHz to 5 GHz frequency range) and cable TV network applications (up to 1 Gbit/s downstream).

The company employs 40 people and recently secured $30 million in its Series-D funding round, bringing its total funding to date to $38 million (see Pulse-Link Throbs With $30M ).

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider


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