MANHASSET, N.Y. Confident of explosive growth in Bluetooth-enabled devices in 2002, Oki Semiconductor (Sunnyvale, Calif.) has announced a complete system solution for the development of those devices.
Featuring a Bluetooth module with Oki's own CMOS RF and baseband chip set, antenna, a connector and full Bluetooth software, the solution is supported by a complete software development kit (SDK) with a Bluetooth protocol stack. The module is scheduled to be fully Bluetooth 1.1-qualified by September and ready to ship in volume.
"There were over 100 announcements preceding the Bluetooth conference recently," said Eric Nguyen, senior product marketing manager for telecom products at Oki Semiconductor. "In addition, Cahners In-Stat predicts 200 to 300 percent compound growth over the next four years with close to 1 billion units by 2005," he said. Nguyen also pointed to figures from MicroLogic Res earch and IC Insights, which concurred that by 2004, semiconductor revenue would be around $2.2 billion.
"It's our goal to enable that market," said Nguyen, "and we think we have a unique position here, as some designers want to just take an SDK, write their own code and design their own board. However, some large OEMs without the engineering resources want to bypass all that and just take a module, test it and buy it in volume we allow both options."
Despite the good times ahead for Bluetooth, Nguyen foresees a major shake-up in that industry in terms of consolidation. "The pie is big, but there are too many fingers in it," he said. "There'll be lots of acquisitions such as chip companies buying stack companies, etc." This, he believes, will lead to more complete solutions with one-stop shopping. "Then the others [Bluetooth players] will jump on the bandwagon," he said.
The Oki module includes the company's ML7050LA completely integrated RF transceiver for Class 2 and Class 3 operation, its ML70511LA baseband processor, flash memory with protocol stack up to HCI level, an on-chip antenna and a 30-pin connector, all on an 18- x 38-mm module. "For OEMs who don't want to do their own prototype development or design their own board, this module is production-ready," said Nguyen.
The company will recommend an external power amplifier for Class 1 (100 m) operation, "but we didn't see it economically feasible to embed the amp on the RF chip," said Nguyen. "It's more cost effective for customers to expand to a Class 1 solution themselves. Overall, we see mostly Class 2 (10 m), very little Class 3 (1 m) and almost no Class 1 operation," he said.
The chip set is available immediately and is priced at under $15 per 100,000. The module will be available in September for less than $35 in volume quantities, while the SDK is available for $2,850 per kit.
To date, the company has demonstrated interoperability with "other leading Bluetooth vendors" in its lab and has publicly demonstrated an i nteractive application with one master and three slaves operating in a piconet. "Scatternets, on the other hand, are an issue on the table with a lot of suppliers," said Nguyen. "But the next question for us is a full piconet implementation with one master and seven slaves Scatternets incur extra delays, additional hopping sequences and additional checking to allow secure hand-offs from one piconet to the next," he said.
"In the meantime, our partners have been enthusiastic about the comprehensiveness of our solution, as well as its flexibility," said Nguyen. There are four main ways to get access to the module a USB port, UART, a general-purpose I/O interface and JTAG interface enabled by the ARM-based baseband. "Those are the four major ones," said Nguyen, "but on the SDK we've also added audio capability."
As for the chip set and module, the next step, according to Nguyen, is to converge the RF and baseband chips at 0.18 micron, from 0.35 and 0.25 micron, respectively, before integra ting the two on a single chip. "The integration will also be enabled by the departure on the RF side from an analog low-intermediate frequency [IF] design to a digital IF version," Nguyen said.
On the baseband, the company plans to incorporate its own multichip packaging technology to stack up to 2 Mbits of flash memory on-chip to augment the chip's ARM7TDMI CPU.
Other options for the module by year's end include an external antenna. According to Nguyen, "This is in response to companies that are getting more RF designers on board and so are looking for more flexibility in terms of where they want the antenna on their board." The complete chip set will also be going surface-mount.
In response to a trend toward combined 802.11b and Bluetooth radios, Nguyen acknowledges that Oki is "looking at other wireless technologies, but as we don't have a .11b solution from Oki we can only partner with someone to combine the two," he said. On the other hand, "802.11a is a more feasible option to expand our w ireless offering," he said.