Eric Huang, Product Marketing Manager, Synopsys, Inc.
The USB standard’s use of the term “Universal” showed remarkable foresight. As the most successful connectivity standard ever, the Universal Serial Bus really has lived up to its name. According to the USB Implementers Forum, Inc., (www.usb.org) there are more than 2 billion USB-enabled devices on the market today including PCs, PC peripherals, communications devices, and consumer electronics products.
As consumers, we have embraced the convenience of each wireless revolution – from landlines to cell phones, wired networks to Wi-Fi networks. Most recently we have added another layer of wireless functionality to cell phones in the shape of Bluetooth-enabled wireless headsets – effectively creating our own wireless personal area networks. The market hungers for wireless connectivity.
Our need for wireless connectivity, familiarity with the USB standard, and, above all else, the favorable economics of Certified Wireless USB, will ensure it is a success. Certified Wireless USB technology from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) will be adopted more rapidly than Wi-Fi, and even outpace the take-up of wired Hi-Speed USB 2.0 devices.
This paper, aimed at decision makers within product development companies with responsibility for specifying device connectivity, provides an up-to-date report on the status of Certified Wireless USB technology. It explores the favorable economic factors and technology benefits that Synopsys believes will drive rapid adoption of this new standard.
Certified Wireless USB Technology – at a Glance
Wireless USB offers similar functionality to the current Hi-Speed USB 2.0 specification, but without the wires. Based on the WiMedia Ultra-Wideband (UWB) Common Radio Platform, it is designed to support high-bandwidth data transfer; supporting 480 Mbps at up to 3 meters distance, falling to 110 Mbps at 10 meters. This support for high-speed data transfer makes it ideal for multimedia applications.
Certified Wireless USB technology has been specified with low power consumption as a primary requirement, and is ideally suited to portable (battery-operated) applications. Certified Wireless USB complements Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® providing high throughputs at short distances at 1/20th the power of Wi-Fi – and 1/10th the power of Bluetooth – per megabyte transferred.
Certified Wireless USB is secure and easy to use. Built-in protocols for authentication and encryption ensure a high level of security. It also offers backwards compatibility with wired USB devices. Like its wired equivalent, wireless USB supports a single host-to-many device topology. This means it can be used for all current wired USB applications. The wireless capability however is likely to open up many more application opportunities, particularly in mobile phone markets, extending the universal standard even further.
Removing the need for wires from the USB standard will undoubtedly increase the potential application space for this connectivity protocol, beyond the scope of its wired predecessor. The key markets include computer, consumer, mobile and automotive.
The first applications to benefit from Certified Wireless USB are expected to be those that form the replacement market for wired Hi-Speed USB 2.0, that is, computers and traditional peripherals such as printers, hard drives and so on. For the PC segment, the migration from wired to wireless USB will take place in phases starting with the use of off-the-shelf PC add-in cards, PC cards, Express cards, and USB dongles. The earliest adopters will use USB dongles for Device Wire Adapters or Host Wire Adapters. The Device Wire Adapter plugs into an existing USB device port on a peripheral to add wireless USB functionality to a wired USB peripheral. The Host Wire Adapter plugs into any existing USB host port in a PC. The Host Wire Adapter adds Wireless USB functionality to the PC. This allows consumers to add wireless capability to their existing computers and peripherals.
Chipset solutions will offer manufacturers a low-risk entry point to integrating Certified Wireless USB functionality into their products. Chipsets that combine hardware and software deliver complete solutions which are particularly attractive to manufacturers because they offer predictability in terms of implementation without the risk of extending the product’s system-on-chip (SoC ) functionality. Full deployment will follow with the integration of wireless USB IP into the SoC, which will drive manufacturing cost even lower.
The leading computer hardware and software manufacturers are providing strong support for the standard, by providing early availability of chipsets and software drivers. InStat forecasts that annual unit shipments in the PC sector will grow from 177 million units to 220 million units by 2009.
Certified Wireless USB technology was built from the ground up for portable applications, especially targeting mobile communications. Adding wireless connectivity to devices that already incorporate a radio is technologically challenging, since there is potential for the radios to interfere with each other. By using the WiMedia UWB platform, Certified Wireless USB technology generates lower out-of-band emissions than other technologies, and is able to adapt digitally to different regulatory environments, which means it is able to co-exist with mobile phones more readily than other wireless standards. Furthermore, Certified Wireless USB has significantly lower power requirements than other wireless connectivity standards, which is of vital importance for portable communications devices.
With figures from ABI Research showing the global mobile subscriber base surpassed 2.14 billion at the end of 2005, and is likely to hit 3 billion by 2008, the potential for Wireless USB in this sector is enormous.
Application convergence in the home provides a significant new connectivity market opportunity for consumer electronics and home entertainment products. High-speed wired USB is already popular in digital cameras and portable media players, and is increasingly integrated within products such as set top boxes and digital DVD players/recorders. Moving these applications to high-speed wireless connectivity promises an even better audio-visual user experience, with improved ease of use and easier sharing of music, pictures and video between devices.
Wireless USB has the throughput capability to support multimedia data streams, matching wired Hi-Speed (USB 2.0) at distances of up to 3m. Although growth in this segment will lag wireless USB deployment in the computer sector, uptake will nevertheless be driven strongly by the major consumer product providers.
Over all of these markets, InStat forecasts that wireless USB-enabled products will grow 193% annually from 2006 through 2009.
Business Drivers for Wireless USB Success
Solid business drivers support the widespread optimism for the wireless USB market. These include strong industry support, an up-and-running compliance infrastructure, provision for a range of implementation options, and extremely favorable economics for deployment.
The first factor that will drive wireless USB to success is the existence of an experienced ecosystem that is capable of delivering on the promise of the new connectivity standard. The same semiconductor and manufacturing companies that have been instrumental in the success of wired USB are motivated to ensure that Certified Wireless USB technology mirrors that achievement. Certified Wireless USB technology is supported by the industry giants Including Intel®, Microsoft® Corporation, NEC, Philips Semiconductors, Samsung Electronics and Agere® Systems Each of these organizations is committed to supporting the Certified Wireless USB initiative by developing and supporting silicon and software implementations.
The USB-IF administers and promotes the standard, supporting activities such as USB compliance workshops, compliance test development, developer conferences and promotion through USB pavilions at events such as the Consumer Electronics Show, the Intel Developers Forum, and CeBit. The USB-IF also provides training to retail chains and their personnel to help consumers identify USB logos and understand the importance of compliance.
- Device Certification Through Strong Compliance Infrastructure
Certification is an essential component of any connectivity standard where devices from a wide range of manufacturers, sourced from different design teams and implemented using different silicon processes, are expected to work together.
The USB-IF administers the compliance test and logo program. Correct use of the logo is a guarantee to consumers that the product they are buying has passed rigorous electrical, protocol and interoperability tests, and should work with any other certified USB product. End-user products, chips and semiconductor IP can likewise undergo USB certification, so that design teams that wish to integrate Certified Wireless USB technology into their own SoC can gain a head start by using certified products. The USB-IF also enforces against misuse of the logo, with the powers to impose significant financial penalties.
- Broadest Implementation Options
In developing the specification for Certified Wireless USB, Intel consulted many contributors including product manufacturers, semiconductor vendors, intellectual property (IP) companies, as well as system and software developers. This approach ensures that Certified Wireless USB technology developers will have the widest choice of implementation options, with the ability to take complete chipsets from one vendor, or mix and match hardware, radio and software components and application software.
The USB-IF certification program means that suppliers will have tested these components together to reduce the chance of interoperability problems before customers deploy them in real projects.
There are several historical perspectives that can be drawn upon to help predict the likelihood of accelerated cost reduction in wireless USB implementation and deployment.
The first Wi-Fi chipsets were introduced to the market around five years ago at approximately $35. Consequently, the price of an early wireless router was around the $120 mark. Five years after their introduction, Wi-Fi chipsets now sell for as little as $2.50 – a price reduction of the order of 90 percent. Wired USB 2.0 chipsets were introduced in 2000, at the $10 price point. These are typically now available for as little a $2, depending on volume, an 80 percent price reduction.
Initial UWB and Certified Wireless USB technology chipsets are expected to be introduced at a similar entry point to the original wired USB 2.0 chipsets (i.e. in the $10-15 range). However, some public information suggests that chipset prices will fall rapidly below $10, for high manufacturing volumes. The likelihood is that chipset pricing will continue to fall, even faster than the historical wired USB and Wi-Fi chip prices.
Even though the implementation complexities of Wi-Fi and Certified Wireless USB technology are broadly similar, there are several reasons why manufacturers will be able to offer Certified Wireless USB chips at a fraction of the price of early Wi-Fi devices.
The Certified Wireless USB technology’s more aggressive price entry point is largely due to the economic benefits that are inherent in designing for advanced 130-nm and 90-nm technology nodes. Because of the significant market potential for wireless USB, there is greater ability to benefit from higher chip manufacturing volumes and therefore more cost-effective silicon.
In specifying the standard, low-cost implementation has been a key goal so that end-product adoption in printers, cameras and MP3 players is accelerated and not held back. For example, the WiMedia UWB standard that is the foundation for Certified Wireless USB has been architected for low-cost implementation. The standardized interface between the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 PHY and digital controller is the USB 2.0 Transceiver Macrocell Interface (UTMI). The UTMI is key to enabling flexibility in the system implementation.
UTMI allows ASIC vendors and foundries to implement a compliant Hi-Speed USB 2.0 PHY and add it to their device libraries. Peripheral and IP vendors will be able to develop their designs to the UTMI, insulated from the high-speed and analog circuitry issues associated with the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface, and therefore reduce the time and risk associated with their development cycles.
Again, certification will ensure that these parts, even when sourced from different suppliers, will work together. This means that a manufacturer is not tied to buying a complete chipset from one vendor, but can buy a discrete PHY from one supplier (such as Alereon or Realtek), and source the digital IP from elsewhere. This scenario favors the economics of Certified Wireless USB deployment. Broadening component choice offers the potential to drive implementation cost even lower. A discrete PHY is expected to be priced at less than $10.
Integrating the digital controller IP may add typically 30 cents or less to the manufacturing cost of the original SoC silicon. A combination of integrated IP and discrete PHY is likely to deliver the lowest cost solution in the short-medium term. The significant potential for accelerated cost reduction is the key to rapid and pervasive adoption of the Certified Wireless USB technology.
Built on WiMedia Ultra-wideband
The Certified Wireless USB protocol from the USB-IF requires standard WiMedia Ultra-wideband (UWB) PHY for the radio transmission. The WiMedia Alliance comprises over 170 consumer electronics and technology companies, and it promotes and manages the WiMedia UWB standard. UWB technology offers a solution for high bandwidth, low cost, low power consumption applications, and meets the physical size and form factor requirements of next-generation consumer electronic products. Current promoters of the WiMedia Alliance include: Alereon, Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Intel Corporation, Kodak, Microsoft Corporation, Nokia Corporation, Philips, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Sony Corporation, Staccato Communications, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Inc. and Wisair Ltd. Synopsys is active contributor of the WiMedia Alliance.
Certified Wireless USB from the USB-IF is just one of several protocols that uses the UWB PHY from WiMedia’s UWB Common Radio Platform. The WiMedia UWB platform is designed to operate with application stacks developed by the 1394 Trade Association Wireless Working Group, the Wireless USB Promoter Group, the Bluetooth-SIG and WiNet (Figure 1). The USB-IF is leading the effort to commercialize the WiMedia UWB technology with the Certified Wireless USB standard.
Figure 1: Ultra-wideband Framework
The connectivity standards built on UWB are, in general, complementary. The varied characteristics in terms of range, bandwidth support, power consumption and economics mean that there is an optimal UWB solution to provide support across a broad range of wireless applications.
Wi-Fi enjoys superior range, and is ideal for home and office networking. Bluetooth has well-defined protocols and is in widespread use for low-bandwidth audio applications at short range, such as wireless audio headsets (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Wireless Protocol Standards Spectrum
Wireless USB Roll-out Timeline
WiMedia UWB has regulatory approval in North America, while Europe, Japan and Asia are currently moving towards regulatory approval.
Interoperability is a key issue. The early part of 2006 has already seen a number of interoperability tests successfully completed. ‘Unplug’ Fests enable multiple vendors to bring their parts together, try them out and solve any issues that are identified. Interoperability and compliance testing will continue to be an important part of the rollout throughout the first half of the year.
The WiMedia Alliance expects that first certification of WiMedia PHYs will occur at the end of Q1’06, first certification of application building blocks (silicon and modules) at the end of Q2’06, and first certification of consumer products based on the WiMedia common radio platform at the end of Q3’06.
Synopsys and Certified Wireless USB Technology
Synopsys is the only IP provider to have been involved in the Certified Wireless USB specification as a technical contributor. As such, Synopsys has been able to closely follow the development of the specification and also bring its considerable expertise in USB IP to the standard. In August 2005, Synopsys was the first company to demonstrate a working device IP based on the Certified Wireless USB technology. This demonstration was significant because it was the first time that two companies, each developing products around the same specification, could show wireless file transfers. In this case, digital pictures transferred from the Synopsys device moved wirelessly from the device to the Intel Certified Wireless USB Platform Development Kit (PDK), hosted on a Windows PC. The Synopsys device and Intel PDK used the same PHY. The demonstration was performed in conjunction with Intel’s Corporate Technology Group, the original authors of both USB and the Certified Wireless USB specification from the USB-IF.
“…Synopsys’ work in the interoperability lab is a great example of how to successfully develop products based on the Certified Wireless USB specification…”
– Jeff Ravencraft, Chairman
USB Implementers Forum
Since then, Synopsys has helped Microsoft reach its earliest milestones in hardware and software interoperability. By September 2005, Synopsys was the first and only company to interoperate its digital controller with three different PHYs, including those from Alereon and Realtek.
“The Synopsys reference design with the Alereon PHY helped us achieve our earliest milestones of software and hardware interoperability for the Certified Wireless USB standard.”
– Fred Bhesania, Program Manager of Wireless USB
Windows Device Experience Group at Microsoft
Market Leadership in USB IP
In terms of market share, Synopsys has led the USB IP market for 4 years running (Dataquest: April 2005). Synopsys supplies USB IP to nearly every major electronics company in the world. and also contributes to the WiMedia Alliance through participation in a number of working groups. The Synopsys DesignWare® USB IP product line provides the industry’s most complete and compliant IP solution consisting of digital controllers, verification and PHYs.
Synopsys DesignWare Wireless USB Device Controller
Synopsys DesignWare Wireless USB (WiUSB) Device Controller IP is based on the Certified Wireless USB specification from the USB-IF. It provides designers with a high-bandwidth WiUSB IP core for SoC integration. The core delivers conservative timing for implementation into a broad range of ASIC and FPGA technologies. The full-featured, synthesizable DesignWare WiUSB Device Controller is designed to run on a UWB common radio platform. The Device IP includes all the digital logic required to integrate Certified Wireless USB technology into a SoC design including a WiMedia MAC. The Device IP includes a WiMedia MAC-PHY interface to enable interoperability with standard discrete WiMedia PHYs.
The AMBA™ 2.0 AHB™ interface in the DesignWare WiUSB Device Controller allows for fast system integration. The IP core is designed using low-power flows and a low-power architecture to minimize area and power consumption. An extensive verification process, which includes simulation and hardware interoperability testing, enables Synopsys to deliver a high-quality IP core, which lowers overall integration risk and speeds time to results.
The key business and technology drivers indicate that Certified Wireless USB technology will be rapidly and pervasively deployed. Aggressive cost reduction will accelerate uptake of the standard, realizing the huge market potential, and building on the momentum of the most successful wired connectivity standard ever. Within 4 years, more than 70 percent of all USB designs are expected to incorporate a Certified Wireless USB component alongside USB or as a substitute for wired USB. With the availability of its Certified WiUSB Device Controller, Synopsys is able to provide design teams with a low-power, cost-effective certified digital controller that is easy to integrate and offers a low-risk path to SoCs with Certified Wireless USB technology.
For more information on DesignWare Wireless USB IP Solution, visit: http://www.synopsys.com/products/designware/wiusb_solutions.html
USB, Wireless USB, and USB-Implementers Forum http://www.usb.orghttp://developer.intel.com/standards/case/case_usb.htm
UWB and WiMedia Alliancehttp://www.wimedia.orghttp://developer.intel.com/standards/case/case_uwb.htm
ABI Research: Mobile subscriber base data