Cambridge Consultants, picoChip Team for Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

1/5/2006 - Cambridge Consultants is supporting picoChip in developing software-defined radio reference designs for the mobile WiMAX (802.16e) market, using the picoArray DSP device.

Commissioned by picoChip, the designs will provide the air interfaces required for both base station and mobile station equipment in WiMAX 802.16e wireless networks, but in forms which are inherently software-upgradeable. This flexibility will allow the electronics OEM community to develop and deploy while the WiMAX specification is maturing - without fear of incompatibility or obsolescence.

The software-defined nature of the designs will allow OEMs to accommodate substantial changes to 802.16e equipment in the field, by means of a software patch. This substantially reduces the risk associated with upgrades to the specification - which are likely to be introduced as field experience with mobile WiMAX is gained. It also means that manufacturers can extend system functionality, for example to include MIMO or smart antenna technology.

The reference designs will be delivered in early 2006. picoChip will be providing these to lead customers for trials, and testing them at the first 802.16e Plugfest next June, to verify interoperability and performance.

Cambridge Consultants won the contract to develop the designs for picoChip against competition from design consultancies worldwide, because of the strength of its wireless design team, which offered a deep understanding of wireless signal processing issues as well as considerable experience implementing software-defined radios.

"Very large markets are potentially in prospect for OEMs that can deliver the first 802.16e equipment - both in developed and emerging economies" says Doug Pulley, CTO at picoChip. "When we started our search for a design partner, we were looking for a team with the know-how to do it right first time, and we recognised this quality in Cambridge Consultants' engineers, who understood the design issues intimately. They have integrated into our development team very well, and I'm very pleased with the efficiency of our relationship."

The software defined radios in development exploit the architecture of picoChip's devices, which feature a multi-core array of 16-bit DSPs, plus co-processors to accelerate specific functions, all interconnected by an extremely fast bus. The architecture provides extremely high performance in a form that is very easy to program - allowing signal processing tasks to be divided into smaller elements, which can each be assigned the appropriate processing resources. In addition to optimizing performance, this architecture requires considerably less silicon area, and consumes less power, than alternative design approaches such as a high performance DSP or FPGA.

"The mobile WiMAX spec will evolve over the next few years, and the speed with which new iterations of base station and mobile station designs can be released will be crucial for operators targeting this exciting market for broadband mobile wireless," says Tim Fowler of Cambridge Consultants. "picoArray devices provide elegant technical solutions for this application with excellent performance, cost and power consumption attributes for both ends of the network, combined with a software flexibility that gives developers high degrees of freedom to accommodate both spec evolutions and custom features. The picoArray is easy to program, and offers a very efficient platform for the development of complicated systems."

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About Cambridge Consultants
For over 40 years Cambridge Consultants has enabled its clients to turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. It develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology critical issues for clients worldwide. With a team of over 200 engineers, scientists and consultants, in offices in Cambridge (UK) and Boston (USA), it is able to offer solutions across a diverse range of industries including healthcare, industrial and consumer products, automotive, transport, energy and wireless communications.

About picoChip
picoChip, located in Bath, England, is dedicated to providing innovative, flexible wireless solutions to help equipment makers minimize time-to-market, costs, and system power consumption. The heart of the company's offering is a scaleable, multi-processor baseband IC that combines the computational density of a dedicated ASIC with the programmability of a traditional high end Digital Signal Processor. This radically reduces both development time and materials cost and enables the strategic goal of the "Software Defined Radio". The company has the most comprehensive reference designs in the industry, with complete, standard-compliant solutions for both UMTS (including HSDPA) and WiMAX (802.16d upgradeable to 802.16e).

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