Trend: Smart partitioning

If the wars in Vietnam and Iraq--and, on a more mundane level, Boeing's experience with in-flight connectivity (see story above)--teach us anything, it is that it is one thing to get into something with all the best intentions and plans, and it is another thing to succeed in the mission. The WiMAX sector, as is the case with other sectors of the market with high demand, or expected high demand, attracts more market entrants, but for these entrants to succeed--becoming a leader, defending a lead, increasing market share--they must pay attention to the factory cost of the chipset. The reason: One sure way to reduce significantly the cost of a device is smart partitioning.

Noman Rangwala and Tom Gratzek argue that for WiMAX and broadband wireless access, it is essential for the consumer price points to be lower than $100. CPE equipment for ADSL and 802.11g, for which consumer price hovers about $20 to $30, are good examples of how volumes increased impressively as prices declined. It is reasonable to expect that the WiMAX market will be faced with similar price pressures, and that by the middle of 2007 the prices of end user CPE will fall below $100. To get there, however, the price of the chipset will have to decline to about $20 to $25. This is way lower than the current price, and will require major improvements.

The authors show, in great technical detail, that partitioning with an "RF to bits" radio offers the four important ingredients for success in a growing but fiercely competitive market: High performance solution, focus on core competency, lowest power cost and fastest time to market. The right partitioning of analog and digital functionality addresses many of the issues related to integration of analog circuits on digital ASICs, allowing for system optimization. This is why the smart partitioning approach is now being adopted by standards bodies such as the Digi-RF group in mobile handsets, the JC-61 group targeting WLAN and WiMAX, as well as in various proprietary systems. Analog Devices offers the ADI/Q interface which allows easy implementation of this cost-and performance--optimized strategy.  The authors both work at signal processing specialist Analog Devices.

For more on smart partitioning:
- see Noman Rangwala and Tom Gratzek Commsdesign article
- see also Analog Devices website  

MORE: Rocky Mountain News' Jeff Smith offers a useful where-we-are summary of WiMAX state of play.