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New chip advances software-defined radio

Posted: 20 Oct 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:software-defined radio  forward error-correction  base band  analogue 

The Inter-university Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) of Europe has developed a chip that can handle a variety of advanced forward error-correction technologies used in a range of wide-area and local-area wireless networks. The FlexFEC device is part of the research group's effort to assemble a full suite of silicon for software-defined radio (SDR).

Separately, IMEC's researchers demonstrated SDR base band and analogue front-end chips running video over two simultaneous 2.4-GHz channels at rates approaching 100Mbps. That's as much as five times the rate supported by any previous demo, they claimed.

IMEC's chip can handle the advanced turbo and LDPC forward error-correction codes. The FEC technologies are used in a wide range of wireless nets, including third-generation cellular standards such as 3GPP and LTE, wireless networks such as 802.11n and mobile WiMAX (802.16e) and broadcast TV specs such as Europe's DVB-S2/T2.

The FlexFEC chip, a multi-processor using a wide SIMD architecture, is competitive in throughput and power consumption with existing dedicated FEC chips, IMEC claimed. "This could be a generic block for building many different kinds of chips," said Liesbet Van der Perre, group science director of wireless research at IMEC.

Van der Perre's team is about to release a second-generation analogue front end for SDR. The 45-nm Scaldio-2 chip can handle SDR transmissions spanning frequencies from 200 MHz to 6 GHz, and may even hit 10 GHz. The group has also designed the so-called Bear chip, a base band geared for SDR. Papers on both chips have been submitted for consideration at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in February.

"We have proven we can reach the power efficiency of dedicated radios," said Serge Vernalde, technical business director of nomadic embedded systems at IMEC.

In August, IMEC first demonstrated Scaldio along with two Bear chips enabling SDR transmissions at 216Mbps. Van der Perre and colleagues showed a single Bear base band handling two simultaneous video streams over 2.4-GHz SDR links.

"I don't think anyone has achieved more than 20Mbps so far" with SDR, she said. "The degree of flexibility of this platform also is extremely high because we can reprogram in C" both the base band and analogue front end, she added.

"Many people have base band flexibility, but still use dedicated radios," she said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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