Fujitsu jumps in with its WiMax chip

Fujitsu has followed up Intel's launch of its first WiMax chip -- the Pro/Wireless 5116, aka Rosedale -- with an IEEE 802.16-2004 compliant chip of its own.

While Fujitsu and Intel are not the first to bring products to market supporting the broadband wireless standard, their entrance is expected to give WiMax an important jump-start. Another important step will be interoperability testing by the WiMax Forum, which was expected to begin in January but has been delayed by six months, meaning it will be the end of this year before certified products are on the market.

Like Intel, Fujitsu announced major customers lined up to use its MB87M3400 system-on-a-chip in their products. WiMax systems provider Aperto Networks will use Fujitsu as its standard silicon in PacketWave base stations and other series of enterprise-grade customer premises equipment (CPE). ZTE Corporation, a Chinese telecoms systems supplier, said it will produce "WiMax-certifiable" equipment based on Fujitsu's chip, and SiGe Semiconductor said it has produced an 802.16-2004 reference design based on the chip.

In its current form, WiMax duplicates the wireless broadband capabilities of existing proprietary systems, with the difference that WiMax products are all interoperable, and should become cheaper than their proprietary counterparts. The real fireworks should begin for WiMax when the mobile version of the standard arrives, say WiMax boosters such as Intel. IEEE 802.16e will supposedly give long-range wireless networking to devices such as laptops, with only minor modifications necessary to base stations, but won't arrive until 2007 or 2008.

The Fujitsu chip supports networks using licensed or licence-exempt bands below 11GHz. The company expects Europe's existing licensed spectrum will boost WiMax takeup. "In Europe in particular, with the licensed band in the 3.5GHz region, we are expecting a rapid implementation of WiMax," said Manfred Mettendorff, senior marketing manager at Fujitsu Microelectronics Europe, in a statement.

The chip uses an OFDM 256 (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) PHY supporting channels from 1.75MHz to 20MHz, and operating in TDD or FDD modes. The chip's data rate can go up to 75Mbps when using 64QAM modulation in a 20MHz channel with all 192 sub-carriers, Fujitsu said.

A main RISC engine implements the 802.16 upper-layer MAC, scheduler, drivers, protocol stacks, and user application software, with a secondary RISC/DSP on board for lower-layer MAC functions, and a multi-channel DMA controller. The chip uses DES/AES/CCM encryption and decryption engines for the 802.16 MAC privacy sub-layer. Other components include a memory controller and an Ethernet engine.

The chip is available now in a 436-pin BGA package with prices starting at US$45 each in volumes of 1,000. The reference design is scheduled for WiMax Forum certification, Fujitsu said. The Forum's first interoperability Plugfest is scheduled for July 2005 with testing taking place at the Forum's certification lab in Malaga, Spain.

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