NEWS BRIEFS, July 2002

US Releases Spectrum for Wireless Services

Under pressure from the wireless industry, the U.S. government said it would release 90 MHz of spectrum currently used by federal agencies for third-generation (3G) wireless services.  The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said on July 23 that the spectrum would come from two bands; 1,710-1,770 MHz; and 2,110-2,170 MHz. The spectrum would be used for fixed and mobile wireless services, with 3G services expected to use the majority. The decision to release the spectrum follows a series of government reviews designed to balance national security uses of spectrum with industry demand for more spectrum needed for new wireless services already being rolled out in Europe.

The Federal Communications Commission helped negotiate the spectrum reallocation with the Department of Defense. The wireless industry, led by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, also had been petitioning the government to free up spectrum for 3G services. According to NTIA's plan, DOD would move its fixed microwave systems from the 1,710-to-1,755-MHz band within two years of being reimbursed for the move by industry. Federal law requires industry to pay the cost of relocating federal agencies to new spectrum. Sixteen other DOD "protected sites" would also be affected under the spectrum deal, NTIA said.

Low-Power RF Niche from AMI

In a bid to expand into standard-products portfolios, AMI Semiconductor Inc. this week will unveil plans to field an RF transceiver chip aimed at the pending low-power IEEE 802.15.4 specification. The 0.35-micron device, which integrates RF transmit-and-receive features as well as a baseband engine, is aimed at the nascent market for low-power embedded radios for industrial, automotive and medical devices. The Pocatello, Idaho Company says it intends to deliver early samples of the Astric transmit/receive IC to early customers later this quarter and provide full design kits by the fourth quarter. Astric is a low-data-rate RF transceiver, which to AMI means anything that operates below 1-GHz carrier frequencies. The device will transmit data at 40 kbits/second across distances up to 100 meters using direct-sequence spread spectrum over the 868-MHz to 928-MHz band.

The transmit speed is less than half that of Bluetooth, but the device consumes little more than half the power of a Bluetooth solution and has a transmit range 10 times longer, the company said. Operating at low power is critical, because the targeted embedded systems must be able to work in the field continuously for more than a year. These include applications such as remote medical-diagnostic equipment, keyless entry systems and agricultural instruments that monitor soil moisture.

The device must also be robust enough to operate in a wide range of environmental conditions, and able to withstand noise and electromagnetic interference. AMI has working silicon in its lab and has been able to transmit data between radios 100 meters apart. Moreover, AMI said the bill-of-materials cost for the 802.15.4 system using its first low-power transceiver IC, dubbed Astrx1, will be less than $6.50. The BOM for Bluetooth, by contrast, is more than $20, according to AMI.

Clocking Engines For 0.13 CMOS Deliver Synthesized, Full-custom Clocking Circuits

Barcelona Design has just introduced the Miro family of clocking engines supports clock generation, clock synchronization, and clock & data recovery circuit functions and generate globally optimal application specific instances for 0.13micron CMOS processes. The clocking engines are analogue intellectual property products used to generate application-specific clocking circuit, helping chip designers working on consumer, wired and wireless communications, and high-end computing applications. Multi-variant PLL design specifications up to 1.8GHz can be synthesized and optimized from Spec to GDSII in matter of hours.

159x148x66 mm Industrial PCs with 700 MHz Celeron or Pentium-III Processor

Digital-Logic AG at Switzerland has just introduced the Microspace-PC that is remarkable for its small dimensions of 159x148x66 mm and its attractive design. It is equipped with the latest low-consumption components, and uses powerful low-voltage Pentium-CPUs and a passive cooling system. Since no fan is installed, the noise level is less than 35dB.

The PC is at present available in two versions: the PC30 model is based on a 700MHz Celeron processor and has a 128KB L2 cache and 128MB memory. Also integrated are two PS/2 interfaces for keyboard and mouse, two USB interfaces, and ports for printer, COM1 and COM2. The PC is equipped with a 2.5" hard disk with a capacity of 20GB and a CD drive as mass storage media. Additional peripheral devices and mass storage media such as digital camera, CD-RW and DVD-RW can be connected via Firewire IEEE1394 to the front of the PC. In addition, the PC offers a 100/10Base-T (RJ45) LAN interface. The PC also supports an optional smart card reader that provides protection for booting and data access using the latest ISO7816 smart cards. Under the name of PC31, Digital-Logic offers a variant of the PC30 with 700MHz Pentium-III processor, 256KB L2 cache, 256MB memory, DVD drive and ISDN interface.