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WiGig takes speed to 60GHz range amidst design challenges

04 May 2015  | Brian Fuller

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No easy route

But the path charted before designers, to get us from here to there, is challenging. Kahana pointed out that it's a new radio band, much higher than traditional 5GHz and operating in GHz channels. Designs need to accommodate new a modem, new antenna. "It's designed to use beam-forming and beam-steering so antenna arrays are required," Kahana said. "You need to consider beam forming and steering algorithms coming from disciplines like phased array radars into the PC, tablet and phone space."

Systems need to support visual lossless display. Such pristine quality and lack of delay requires unique codecs and architecture, both in software and in hardware, Kahana said. There's also the need to support, in parallel, multi Gb/s of I/O, working with multitude of peripherals in a reliable manner, he said, adding, that has implications on the software stack, quality-of-service and more.

And coming with full end-to-end usage models such as wireless docking, a big Intel focus, engineering teams need to think carefully about everything from out-of-the-box experience, user-interaction to KPIs and implications on the device and dock, he added. Given the land rush expected to design WiGig systems and devices, the requirement to be fast and first is important. To speed that, the liberal use of IP and subsystem blocks to speed integration is key. But a stumbling block can be analogue IP; many engineers still perceive it as a "black art" of system design.

"It used to be analogue IP was difficult; there was no standard and it had to be done custom. But it's not as bad as people think," said Bob Salem, product marketing director with Cadence's IP Group. "Using it is easy, but creating a compact, efficient, robust, analogue block takes years of experience." It's a crucial component to the success of any SoC, especially in fast-changing, emerging markets such as wearables and IoT established markets like mobile, where power considerations are key.

Choices, choices

It then comes down to a series of questions? (1) Roll your own? (Analogue engineering expertise always fetches a payroll premium.); and (2) Find a boutique analogue house to develop the blocks and subsystems for you? ("There are a lot of boutique analogue houses that became successful and then vanished. They can't scale," Salem said.)

EDA companies have stepped in to fill that need, offering both expertise and scale, he added.

"Analogue is easy to design, but difficult to master," Salem said. Today, your average SoC has more than 110 IP blocks in it. And that quickening pace of change, with the introduction of game-changers such as WiGig, suggests that smart choices must be made if you're going to stay competitive.

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