YOU ARE AT:Archived ArticlesAs EDGE inches forward, silicon players fashion interface standard

As EDGE inches forward, silicon players fashion interface standard

On both technology and adoption fronts, EDGE technology is forging ahead. While the protocol contends with handset challenges, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association puts the number of network operators that have announced EDGE commitments at 76 in 50 countries.

However, only 14 networks are commercially launched around the world.

In the chip arena, major silicon players like Sony Semiconductors, Motorola Inc. and TTPCom have fashioned a new interface standard for the technology.

The standard, known as DigRF interface, defines a physical interface that connects the baseband and radio integrated circuits within handsets. The Digital Interface Working Group, which has been working on the standard since it was formed in 2002, said it is at work on the third-generation version of the interface standard, which it hopes to release in 2005.

Other players involved in this iteration of the standard include Agere Systems Inc., Infineon Technologies, Renesas, Silicon Laboratories, Philips Semiconductors, RF Micro Devices, Silicon Laboratories and Skyworks Inc. The GSM/GPRS standard should hit the market in about a month.

“The reason is to remove the need for the mixed-signal components in the older style of handsets,” explained Charles Sturman, product manager for core technology at TTPCom. This will eliminate the converter between the RF and baseband chips, making for easier design, smaller footprint and better integration, he said.

The GSA says the strongest interests in EDGE have come from carriers in Asia, Europe and Latin America. Major GSM carriers in the United States like Cingular Wireless L.L.C. and AT&T Wireless Services Inc. have announced EDGE launches but are hobbled by terminal issues.

Many operators around the world have confirmed plans to deploy both Wideband CDMA and EDGE for operational flexibility and efficient use of their capital expenses, said Alan Hadden, president of GSA. “EDGE delivers increased network capacity for voice and data, triple data speeds and ensures the best and most consistent user experience of advanced data services, in return for only incremental investment,” said Hadden.

GSM/EDGE can be deployed in the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands. The GSA has played up the recent announcement by Ghanaian operator Scancom, which has said it will deploy EDGE services, the first on the continent.

The companies involved believe that DigRF will offer terminal designers an array of choices in chipset combinations by ensuring compatibility between baseband and RF integrated circuits, said Andrew Fogg, senior research and development engineer at TTPCom and chairman of the Digital Interface Working Group. The standards participants expect it to increase competition among the handset makers in selecting what baseband and RF combinations will work best for their terminals.

“The standard intentionally confines itself to the interface between the chips and so places very few constraints on the internal design of the ICs, leaving manufacturers free to innovate and define efficient solutions,” said Fogg.

Sturman describes it as flexible enough for integration. The working group does not have any competing standards group and hopes to embrace all industry players. Sturman said some big players also are participating but have not disclosed their participation in public yet.

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