Silvus offering soft cores for WiFi

"Speak softly and carry a big stick" is how Theodore Roosevelt described his approach to foreign policy. This is also the approach of Los Angeles-based Silvus Communication Systems to WiFi. The start-up, spun out of UCLA, is developing soft cores for next-generation wireless systems ranging from WiFi to software-defined and cognitive radios. The first commercial product of the company will help developers of next-generation WiFi chip sets and systems. The company has developed the VHDL software for a PHY chip which exceeds the requirements of the upcoming 802.11n standard. The code, running on a Xilinx Virtex-II FPGA, supports a 4 x 4 matrix for MIMO, the antenna technology behind the pending .11n standard.

"If you are looking at developing an 802.11n product, our software will get you 90 percent of the way there," said Babak Daneshrad, an associate professor at UCLA and Silvus' founder. The MIMO decoder which handles the matrix inversion processing is the key to the software. It surpasses the 2x2 matrix support required by 802.11n while supporting all the modes defined in the standard, including spatial multiplexing and space-time coding. The software comes in versions supporting bandwidths of 5, 10 or 20 MHz and data rates ranging from 1 to 200 Mbps. It is agnostic on RF spectrum band support, and it provides an application programming interface for third-party MAC.

The VHDL code will become available in mid-June and is suitable for fast transfer to an ASIC process. Cost of the software will likely include up-front fees and royalties and is based on negotiations. Academic researchers will be interested in this: If they want to create prototypes of software-defined radios, they can use C function calls to manipulate the PHY chip to support various MAC protocols, feedback and decoding schemes and other variables. The WiFi code is the first of several domain-specific acceleration products the company has planned. Silvus says it will develop a soft PHY core for WiMax. It is also working on code for a block that will handle interference mitigation.

For more on Silvus solution:
- see the company's Web site
- and see Rick Merritt's EETimes report

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