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Wideband CMOS RF chip aids M2M, IoT device dev't

07 Feb 2014  | Nick Flaherty

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The wideband CMOS RF chip from Lime Microsystems integrates 2x2 MIMO functionality and supports all cellular standards and frequencies, including 2G, 3G and 4G / LTE and their TDD / FDD variants among other standards such as WiFi. The zero IF transceiver has been taped out in 65nm CMOS and runs from 50MHz to 3.8GHz. The chip aids in the development of M2M and Internet of Things (IoT) devices for the global industry. Open source designs have been vital to the specification of this new wideband CMOS RF, says Ebrahim Bushehri, the CEO of Lime Microsystems.

Lime's first device was built in SiGe BiCMOS and the experience of making it available as part of an open source design through distributors such as Digikey and Richardson has given an insight into the additional functions that customers want.

"A whole host of novel platforms came out of the 6002 which really prompted us to cross migrate those flexibilities and go for further flexibility," said Bushehri. "One of the key aspects of this kind of transceivers is you can capture a whole bunch of fragmented markets and when you look at the totality of the market, the volume becomes quite interesting just in the same way as the FPGA guys. And if any go into high volume, we can respond and cost reduce significantly. It also gives us early access to what is required in three or four years down the line."

As a result, it features DSP functions, a microcontroller, multiple 12bit ADCs and DACs, LNAs, filters, PLLs, and mixers that can be accessed separately from the RF chain. These elements can also be used as cost-effective stand-alone parts and the open architecture allows each function to be accessed and used separately. The DSP enhances the analogue gain and filtering with digital control and is an important factor in reducing the overall power consumption.

"Staying true to bit programmable RF, we have brought a range of features from a range of chipsets into one and allow people to bypass elements in the chip if they desire," said Bushehri. "With CMOS, we've been able to put a lot of digital functionality into this chip. It's not just a lower cost."

New features, such as the on-chip 8051 microcontroller, simplify the calibration and installation. The chip is programmed by a serial bit stream, and designed using a free open source configuration tool suite.

The LMS7002M can operate from a single supply rail of 1.8V with individual blocks capable of being powered down when not required for further power savings. This makes it suitable for a wide range of battery and mains powered mobile communications devices – from professional devices, such as small cells and software-defined radios, to consumer and machine to machine (M2M) systems.

"The flexibility, low power consumption, functionality and price of the LMS7002M makes it an exceptionally disruptive entry to the transceiver chipset market," said Bushehri. "Our new architecture delivers an industry leading transceiver function for a fraction of the cost of existing solutions. And it can be configured to perform many of the functions used within the chip as stand-alone parts too."

For M2M, the company is aiming at premium tracking designs. "We are looking at the high end side of M2M – examples such as asset tracking, people installing these on trucks, vehicles, etc., and reporting back the status of the vehicle via the network," said Bushehri. "If you want a global reach, you have to deal with all the different frequencies."

Sampling will start in Q3 2014.

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