Freescale Eyes Gigabit Wireless

Motorola subsidiary Freescale Semiconductor outlined a product roadmap this week that will take its line of UWB (Ultra-Wideband) chipsets from 114 megabits per second to 1 gbps over the next year.

Freescale's existing XtremeSpectrum chipset can support short-range wireless UWB connections up to 114 mbps. Samples of the chipset are available to hardware makers, and the chipset will be commercially available during the third quarter, the company says.

One of the first vendors to commit to using the chipset in its products is Taiwanese hardware maker Micro-Star International. MSI plans to incorporate the chipset in a PCI card that will ship inside upcoming versions of its Mega PC home entertainment computers. The cards will also be available separately, a company executive said last week at the Computex 2004 exhibition in Taipei.

Freescale plans to begin shipping samples of its next UWB chipset with support for connections up to 220 mbps during the fourth quarter, the company says. It will follow the introduction of that chipset with models that can support connections up to 480 mbps and 1 gbps within the next year, it says.

Hitting Higher Speeds

UWB is seen as an important upgrade for short-range wireless connections. Bluetooth supports data rates up to 1 mbps and vendors are looking for a technology that can support faster connections so that large files, such as digital video, music, and digital pictures, can be quickly transferred between devices.

While Freescale looks set to be the first company to make a UWB chipset commercially available, there is another UWB-based technology that is under development with the backing of some of the industry's biggest and most important players.

Freescale's UWB chipsets employ a version of the technology called DS-UWB (Direct Sequence UWB). A different UWB-based technology, called Wireless USB, is being developed by a group of companies that include Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung Electronics, Microsoft, NEC, and Philips Semiconductor International.

The Wireless USB specification, which is based on another version of UWB, called MB-OFDM (Multiband Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), will be finalized by the end of this year, according to Intel. The first version of Wireless USB is planned to support short-range connections up to 480 mbps, it says.

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