Wireless markets may have slowed over the last several years, but wireless technology continues to advance. Many of the exhibitors at the recent Wireless Systems Design Conference & Expo pointed to aggressive product development programs as their way to break out of a sluggish economy for high-frequency electronics sales. Held March 8-10, 2004 at the San Diego Convention Center (San Diego, CA), the technical conference and exhibition featured technical presentations by some of the leading personalities in wireless technology as well as several new product launches representing significant advances in the current production state of the art.

Held for the first time in Southern California, the three-day event offered several Keynote addresses with different themes. On opening day, Dr. Henry Samueli, co-founder and chairman of Broadcom Corp. offered his views on of the state of present and future wireless markets in a talk entitled "Wireless in Everything: Life in a Fully Connected World."

The following day, Dr. Ronald E. Reedy, founder, vice president, and CTO of Peregrine Semiconductor, switched to a more military theme in his presentation "Managing Mil/Space and Commercial Business in RFICs." In his presentation, he used a two-channel Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver design as an example of a military development program that provided solid business for the company, and was later refined for several commercial products.

In a third Keynote Address, Robert Poor, CTO and co-founder of Ember Corp., projected many of the industrial uses for wireless technology in a talk entitled "The Future of Industrial Wireless: What's on the Horizon and Where the Growth Will Be." His address was part of the first-ever Industrial Wireless Applications Summit (IWAS) technical program within the Wireless Systems Design Conference & Expo. The IWAS featured a strong lineup of technical presentations on industrial applications, and included a tutorial on RF/wireless basics by Mihir Ravel of National Instruments, the migration of wireless technology to the industrial sector by Enrico De Carolis of Numatics, Inc., applications for radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and readers in industrial applications by Sean Loving of SkyeTek, and the use of RFID technology in fluid tracking and monitoring by Rick Garber of Colder Products.

Technical sessions at the Wireless Systems Design Conference & Expo were offered in numerous tracks, including Broadband/Wireless Networks, Handset Design, Power Management, Wireless Security, and Test and Measurement. One of the better-attended sessions explored variations on conventional wireless modulation techniques, such as ultrawideband (UWB) and ultranarrowband (UNB) modulation. In a talk entitled "Understanding and Using Ultra Wideband (UWB)," Jon Adams, director of radio technology for the Radio Products Division of Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector compared UWB to Bluetooth and other established wireless-communications formats and explores its possible benefits over existing wireless-communications technologies. Roberto Aiello of Staccato Communications reviewed the activities of the Wireless 1394 group in their push toward UWB standardization, while Kursat Kimyacioglu of Philips Semiconductors explored his company's interest in UWB technology for consumer applications.

On the UNB side, Harold Walker of Pegasus Data Systems addressed an early-morning crowd with his review of the sometimes-controversial UNB approach to transmitting information. He was backed by Bohdan Stryzak of Photron Sciences who offered a comparison of UNB and UWB technologies, and detailed how each was suited for a different set of applications.

On the exhibit floor, news on the product-development front came in many shapes and sizes. Atmel Corp. (San Jose, CA), for example, announced a line of power amplifiers based on silicon germanium (SiGe). Models TO905 and ATR0906 are fabricated with a proprietary SiGe process and designed for frequencies of 135 to 600 MHz and 500 to 1000 MHz, respectively. As much as 32 dB power gain can be set dynamically, with as much as +35 dBm output power in CW mode and efficiency as high as 55 percent.

In addition, Atmel announced that its GPS chip set is now equipped with new read-only-memory (ROM) version 3.0 which provides improved navigation accuracy and integrity as well as higher sensitivity. The new ROM allows the chip set to receive Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signals from multiple geostationary satellites such as the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) satellite in the US and the European Geostationary Navigational Overlay System (EGNOS) in Europe simultaneously. The company's GPS receiver, which employs a 16-channel architecture (compared to the 12-channel approach by many GPS receivers), uses this additional information to improve the navigation accuracy. The chip set's GPS receiver can track signals as low as −150 dBm.

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The Fairchild RF division of Fairchild Semiconductor (Tyngsboro, MA) offered its full range of power amplifiers (PAs) and front-end products for cellular, WLAN, and millimeter-wave applications. The company's model RMPA2550, for example, is a dual-band PA for IEEE 802.11a/b/g WLAN applications at 2.4 to 2.5 GHz and 5.15 to 5.85 GHz. Operating from a single positive voltage, the amplifier provides at least 27 dB small-signal gain in a 3 × 4-mm package. The model RMPA5251 power-amplifier module (PAM) operates over the same two frequency bands and includes power detection and power-shutdown functions with better than +21 dBm output power. The packaged module measures 3 × 3 mm. For single-band use, the company's model RMPA2450 monolithic PA provides +31 dBm output power from 2.4 to 2.5 GHz with PAE of 35 percent at +7 VDC and +28 dBm output power at +5 VDC.

Fujitsu Microelectronics America (Sunnyvale, CA) introduced three single-serial-input phase-locked-loop (PLL) frequency synthesizers at the show. The new lineup includes models MB15E05SR, MB15E06SR, and MB15E07SR, with frequency ranges to 2.0, 3.0, and 2.5 GHz, respectively. The PLLs feature a separate charge-pump power-supply pin and the ability to operate on voltages as high as +5.5 VDC, making them ideal for a broad range of wireless applications. For example, model MB15E07SR has a 2.5-GHz prescaler and a voltage supply range of +2.7 to +5.5 VDC, drawing just 7.2 mA at +3.75 VDC.

The Wireless Semiconductor Division of Agilent Technologies (San Jose, CA) launched a front-end module combining two of its key technologies: a film-bulk-acoustic-resonator (FBAR) filter and a GaAs enhancement-mode pseudomorphic high-electron-mobility-transistor (E-pHEMT) amplifier. The new model AFEM-7731 front-end module (FEM) is suitable for code-division-multiple-access (CDMA) 1900 Personal Communications Services (PCS) and dual-band cellular handsets. The duplexer is designed for transmit frequencies of 1850 to 1910 MHz and receive frequencies of 1930 to 1990 MHz. The duplexer provides high isolation between the transmit signal path and the receiver port, with receive noise blocking of 44 dB and transmit signal suppression of 54 dB. The duplexer's insertion loss is 2.2 dB in the receive band and 1.8 dB in the transmit band. The amplifier delivers +24.5 dBm linear output power from a +3.4-VDC supply.

On a somewhat larger scale, Anritsu Co. (Morgan Hill, CA) introduced a fully integrated wireless-local-area-network (WLAN) test solution called the model MT8860A. The standard introductory model performs all receiver and transmitter measurements on all 14 IEEE 802.11b WLAN channels at 2.4 GHz, and can be upgraded to support IEEE 802.11a and g standards at both 2.4 and 6 GHz. The instrument has an internal "golden" reference radio (for comparison to systems under test) and also has connections for an external reference radio. The MT8860A can provide high-speed testing of transmitter power (peak and average, power burst profiles), frequency, carrier suppression, spectrum mask compliance, and harmonic levels.

The integrated test instrument can also perform automated measurements of receiver sensitivity, adjacent-channel rejection, nonadjacent-channel rejection, and receiver saturation. For example, for frame-error-rate (FER) testing, the MT8860A establishes an ad hoc connection with a device under test DUT and transits a user-defined number of frames to the DUT. Under proper operation, the DUT sends an acknowledge frame in return for each received frame. The FER can be calculated from the ratio of transmitted frames to received acknowledge frames.

Making full use of a PC for microwave measurements, National Instruments (Austin, TX) launched its model PXI-5670 three-slot, 3U PXI RF vector signal generator. In spite of its compact module format, the unit is a full-featured RF vector signal generator capable of generating output signals from 250 kHz to 2.7 GHz with 22-MHz real-time bandwidth and a wide range of modulation formats. By programming its 100 MSamples/s (interpolated to 400 MSamples/s) integral 16-b arbitrary-waveform-generation circuitry and as much as 256 MB of on-board memory, the vector signal generator can command a wide range of modulation formats, including amplitude modulation, (AM), frequency modulation (FM), phase modulation (PM), amplitude-shift keying (ASK), frequency-shift keying (FSK), minimum shift keying (MSK), and quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM).

Depending upon the memory option, the vector signal generator can provide frequency resolution as fine as 0.6 Hz while adjusting output levels over a range of −145 to +13 dBm. The typical tuning speed is 35 ms. Typical phase noise is −87 dBc/Hz offset 1 kHz from the carrier in a real-time bandwidth of less than 10 MHz, improving to −114 dBc/Hz offset 100 kHz from the carrier. Nonharmonic spurious content is typically −80 dBc. The PXI vector signal generator ships with the company's Modulation Toolkit for LabVIEW software for generating complex waveforms and modulation.