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Qualcomm Atheros FAE Training Update

 
I just returned from the first day of the Qualcomm Atheros (QCA) FAE training on Monday in San Jose.  This is an annual event attended by approximately 200 Qualcomm Atheros FAE’s and select QCA Authorized Development Centers like Silex Technology America.  Silex Technology America is an extension of the Qualcomm Atheros FAE organization in providing support to QCA customers and we get access to the same training and resources as QCA FAE’s.

The FAE training is a five day event and it is being attended by two Silex Technology engineers.  The first day (which I attended) was a roadmap update by the three QCA business units (IBU, CBU and NBU).  I was particularly interested in the CBU (Consumer Business Unit) updates which included AR6004 plans as well as updated software schedule information.  Also of interest was a presentation by the IOE (Internet of Everything) which is a component of the NBU (Networking Business Unit).  This organization is driving “Ultra Low Power” Wi-Fi solutions, a market segment that is being investigated by the Silex Technology R&D organization.

After the first day roadmap overview, each business unit has separate “hands-on” break-out sessions that deep dive into various technical topics that we need to understand to help customers through the integration process.  Examples include:

    • General RF Debug Knowledge
    • Windows BT Overview
    • Android WLN Driver Overview
    • Wi-Fi Direct

The other value of participating is joining the evening activities which provide an opportunity to strengthen personal relationships with key QCA personnel.  All-in-all, this is time well spent to enhance the Silex Technology relationship with QCA in order to continue to provide the best support for Silex Technology America customers!

Product Testing - In-House or Outsourced?

 

Wi-Fi Testing Expertise


Here at Silex, we have been testing wireless networking products for over 15 years. This includes Silex branded products as well as customer branded products. In that time, we have built up a large and complete test suite to test the plethora of requirements asked of us by customers. There are so many 802.11 wireless Access Points, devices and standards that our experience in Wi-Fi has become an integral part of our value to our customers.

The Risk of Insufficient Testing


Out-sourced testing and certifications can be expensive. So for customers, the benefits of testing in-house may seem to outweigh the risks.

However, there are many parameters to consider when testing Wi-Fi products. If you have ever logged into a Cisco Access Point’s Web configuration page, then you have seen the large number of options available. This is true of any Enterprise level Access Point. What about authentication? What type of Radius Server will your customers be using? Do you need to test with all the major brands of Access Points and Radius Servers? What about legacy authentication and encryption methods? Do you need to test the older WEP, WPA and LEAP standards? If you have been shipping Wi-Fi products for years then you may already have learned your customers’ needs and adapted. However, if you’re introducing Wi-Fi for the first time, you may need more expertise.

The Benefits of Expert Testing


When introducing a new product to the market, the last thing you want is a bad out-of-box experience or product failure resulting in unhappy customers that costs you a big deal. How important is it when launching a new product to work perfectly the first time the customer tries it? What if the customer is trying to decide between your company’s product and your competitors? If theirs works and yours does not then the competition could be over. What if that was a million dollar deal?

The fact is, no amount of testing can guarantee every possible configuration of every combination of Access Point, Radius Server and the large number of settings between them. The fact is if something does fail during a customer evaluation, I bet testing that feature will be added to your test plan the next time you test your product. Eventually, after years of adding to your test plan, you will have a comprehensive set of use cases that accurately test the most common equipment and settings that your customers use. Unfortunately, you may lose some big deals along the way.

By outsourcing product testing to a company with many years of experience in Wi-Fi testing, you can lessen the risk typically associated with launching a new product line. Of course, this does not mean that you cannot bring testing in-house eventually. Finally, when you outsource testing you will be provided with a comprehensive test report detailing test procedures and results assuring you and your customers of your products quality and interoperability with other Wi-Fi equipment.
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Silex Technology Collaborates with Freescale Semiconductor to Provide Wi-Fi for Next-Generation i.MX 6 Processors

 

Companies Demonstrate Wi-Fi for i.MX 6 at the Freescale Technology Forum


SANTA ANA, California, June 21, 2012 –Silex Technology, a global leader in wired and wireless networking solutions, today announced plug-and-play Wi-Fi connectivity solutions for Freescale Semiconductor i.MX 6 series processors. This technology combination which includes the Silex SX-SDCAN-2830BT was demonstrated at the Freescale Technology Forum June 18 -20, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas.

“Wi-Fi connectivity is a key feature for customers designing products based on our i.MX 6 series processors," said Rajeev Kumar, i.MX product line manager for Freescale Semiconductor. "Silex delivers outstanding technology engineered to help our i.MX 6 customers differentiate and win in competitive markets.”

“Silex is proud to be the Freescale recommended Wi-Fi solutions provider," said Keith Sugawara, vice president of Business Development at Silex Technology America. "Our radio hardware modules are ideal for mid-tier companies who seek to reduce RF design costs and improve time to market."

Silex is a Qualcomm Atheros Authorized Design Center (ADC) who provides secure and high-reliability wireless solutions for device manufacturers that want to add Wi-Fi connectivity to portable devices for medical, printer, weights and measures, and other applications.

The Silex SX-SDCAN-2830BT 802.11a/b/g/n SDIO card module is the Freescale recommended solution for Wi-Fi connectivity. Freescale's i.MX 6 development platforms integrate a reference driver to minimize the engineering time and effort required to productize solutions such as Silex’s Wi-Fi technology.

To provide developers the best connectivity and superior engineering support, Silex  offers a turnkey, one-vendor solution that includes:

    • Driver software available with Freescale i.MX6 development systems

    • 802.11a/b/g/n low-power SDIO card module based on Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 radio

    • Engineering services for custom applications and support


Availability
The SX-SDCAN and other Silex radio modules based on the Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 have been released to production and are immediately available.  Please contact Freescale Semiconductor for availability of i.MX 6 development platforms.
A photo of the SX-SDCAN is available at http://www.silexamerica.com/images/products/wireless_modules/sx-sdcan_big.jpg

About Silex Technology America, Inc.
Silex Technology America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Silex Technology Inc., a 35-year developer and leading network technology company specializing in network and wireless technology, providing hardware, software, embedded modules and turnkey connectivity products. Silex Technology has regional offices for sales, marketing and development in Japan, United States and Germany. Silex Technology is integrated vertically to support customers from design to production, maintaining the highest quality standards. For more information, please visit www.silexamerica.com.

New Press Release: Silex Technology America Introduces Third Generation SDIO Card for Low-Power Wi-FI Connectivity

 
SANTA ANA, Calif., June 5, 2012 – Silex Technology, a global leader in wired and wireless networking solutions, today launched the SX-SDCAN SDIO card based on Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 WLAN technology. Unlike other radio modules, the SX-SDCAN is mechanically designed in an SD card form factor providing an upgrade path for existing Silex customers to take advantage of 802.11n Wi-Fi technology while offering new customers a vendor-independent form factor.

The SX-SDCAN supports 802.11a/b/g/n to leverage the 5GHz band for applications requiring relatively interference-free bandwidth. Added features including antenna diversity and Silex-provided software (driver and security supplicant) offer users the highest reliability and security. The Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 WLAN chipset has been designed to optimize power consumption with the smallest form factor making the SX-SDCAN ideal for low-power battery operated mobile devices such as medical devices, printers and other portable devices.

The SX-SDCAN SDIO card offers the highest product quality through design and production validation. RF-related design efforts and costs are reduced for SX-SDCAN customers because it has been tested to perform to IEEE standards. In addition, Silex Technology tests each module individually ensuring each of its products performs to the published specification. Lastly, the SX-SDCAN has FCC, CE and Telec modular certifications eliminating the need for re-testing intentional radio radiation for regulatory approval.

The SX-SDCAN samples are now available for evaluation. Silex Technology also provides an evaluation kit which includes a sample radio driver and tools to test basic wireless functionality, throughput and RF characteristics.

A photo of the SX-SDCAN is available at http://www.silexamerica.com/images/products/wireless_modules/sx-sdcan_big.jpg

About Silex Technology America, Inc.
Silex Technology America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Silex Technology Inc., a 35-year developer and leading network technology company specializing in network and wireless technology, providing hardware, software, embedded modules and turnkey connectivity products. Silex Technology has regional offices for sales, marketing and development in Japan, United States and Germany. Silex Technology is integrated vertically to support customers from design to production, maintaining the highest quality standards. For more information, please visit www.silexamerica.com.

Missions for Wireless LAN (3)

 
To Be Faster – 3:  Using Millimeter Wave

Since laws hinder the use of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, we may come up with the idea to use a totally different frequency.  It is a 60GHz band and is called Millimeter Wave.  Consecutive bands more than 10GHz have been made available on an unlicensed basis in some countries.  The IEEE802.11ad standard has been now researched and developed as the Wireless LAN in the 60GHz band.  An organization called WiGig is also promoting to standardize this frequency band at the same time.

The millimeter wave can get a broad range of band and is less affected by interference.  The millimeter wave is attenuated because of a resonance of the oxygen molecule, so it shortens the communication distance in the air and doesn't go through objects including walls and glass windows.  The millimeter wave has a directional characteristic like a laser beam (see note below). The radio wave hardly ever goes to the direction except the antenna's radiation patterns.  In regard to the radio wave in 2.4GHz that freely goes to neighborhoods within a few meters radius, there is no chance for the radio wave in 60GHz to go through the next room separated by a couple inches of a wall.  It means that the radio rarely causes interference and is hardly ever tapped.

(Note) The millimeter wave technology has been developed for military operations, such as for missile guidance, because of its sharp directional characteristic.

on the other hand, the strong directional characteristic can be an obstacle when it is used as Wireless LAN.  If the angle of antenna placement is moved a little bit, it may cause a communication error.  Even for the fixed devices, it is difficult to use the millimeter wave. Furthermore, if the antennas try to send the millimeter wave to many devices, antennas have to move side to side and up and down to lock on to a target. How can we solve this problem?  I can tell you that there is a technology to do it.  It is named phased array antennas.  The phased array antennas control a directional characteristic by electrically adjusting antenna phases with many small antennas placed on a flat surface (see note below). The operation using this structure is called "Beam Steering".

(Note) It used to be a military technology. Some people may know it as "hexagonal boards placed on the bridge of the Aegis".

SiBeam in the U.S. took the initiative of Beam Steering with array antennas. It is used for WiHD (Wireless HDMI) specifications in the 60GHz band.  However, it still needs a larger area to be installed, and hasn't been suitable for a smaller portable devices.

Summary

The millimeter wave technology has a new chance for high-speed wireless communication. It will be able to exceed the speed of 1Gbps . But it uses extremely high frequency as compared to existing Wireless LAN, so it needs some breakthroughs including Beam Steering to be put into practical use. The first generation products with WiHD have come out to the market.  It still needs more time to become popular and small enough for terminals.

Through my first article, I have introduced trends of Wireless LAN technology to get faster and their pros and cons. You understand there are no right solutions compatible for many applications.  It is hard to predict which technology will lead the market.  All of them may be used depending on applications or market demands. A totally new technology could enter the field and solve all issues. Nobody knows yet, but I personally think this is an interesting topic.

There are other high speed technologies including the Shannon theory and UWB.  But I would like to move on and introduce the "near future of Wireless LAN".

Silex Expands Product Line With High-Performance Gigabit and 802.11n Wireless USB Device Server Connectivity Solutions

 
SANTA ANA, CA – April 24, 2012 – Silex Technology, a global leader in wired and wireless networking solutions, today announced the SX-DS-3000WAN and SX-DS-4000U2 USB device servers designed to allow users to easily connect virtually any USB device on a wired or wireless network with two hi-speed USB ports.

The SX-DS-3000WAN supports dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n wireless local area networks (WLANs) as well as Gigabit Ethernet wired networks.

The SX-DS-4000U2, with an 800 MHz CPU, is a high performance Gigabit Ethernet USB device server designed for high speed applications including scanners, webcams and other peripherals where fast throughput is a requirement.

SX-DS-3000WAN features:

    • USB device server with up to 300Mbit dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN

    • Gigabit Ethernet with automatic detection of 10/100/1000BASE-T

    • 802.11a/b/g/n dual band wireless

    • Two USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports

    • WPS for easy wireless installation


SX-DS-4000U2 features:

    • USB device server with high-performance Gigabit Ethernet

    • High-performance 800 MHz CPU

    • Gigabit Ethernet with automatic detection of 10/100/1000BASE-T

    • Two USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports with support for isochronous USB streaming data transfer


"With over five million deployments of our USB over IP technology, Silex continues to develop to the latest networking standards to offer the highest-performing products," said Keith Sugawara, vice president of business development for Silex Technology America. "We are excited to expand our product offering for applications where high-throughput is both beneficial and required."

The SX-DS-3000WAN and SX-DS-4000U2 will be available through distribution in June 2012.

To learn more about these and Silex's full line of wired and wireless networking solutions for USB devices, please visit:http://www.silexamerica.com/products/usb_device_connectivity

Photos of the SX-DS-3000WAN and SX-DS-4000US are available at:
http://www.silexamerica.com/images/products/usb_device_connectivity/sx-ds-3000wan_big.jpg
http://www.silexamerica.com/images/products/usb_device_connectivity/sx-ds-4000u2_big.jpg

About Silex Technology America, Inc.
Silex Technology America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Silex Technology Inc., a 35-year developer and leading network technology company specializing in network and wireless technology, providing hardware, software, embedded modules and turnkey connectivity products. Silex Technology has regional offices for sales, marketing and development in Japan, United States and Germany. Silex Technology is integrated vertically to support customers from design to production, maintaining the highest quality standards. For more information, please visit www.silexamerica.com.

Missions for Wireless LAN (2)

 
To Be Faster – 2: Wide Band

Last week I discussed the performance benefits of multi-streaming. This week I will cover wide band technology. Have you ever heard of "HT20/HT40 mode" for 802.11n? Conventional wireless LAN (802.11a/b/g) uses 20MHz bandwidth for 1 channel. 802.11n has a new mode using 40MHz bandwidth as an option. When I mentioned last week that "each stream offers up to 150Mbps", it assumed HT40 mode. The speed is reduced by half (75Mbps) with HT20 mode. The IEEE802.11ac standard is now under development which will be an evolving version of HT40 and provide extended band (80MHz or 160MHz) to achieve two or four times faster speed.

The wide band technology doesn't require antennas like multi-streaming, so it is available for small portable devices. Moreover, the inner circuit design doesn't need to be changed so no new parts are needed. It sounds good but it is not that easy. The number of channels available is decreased as the bandwidth is increased. As the number of available channels decreases, "interference" tends to occur. Neighboring wireless systems may occasionally suffer interference from each other which can result in decreased performance.

Japan allows the use of 13 channels in the 2.4GHz frequency range. Channels are overlapping in the 2.4GHz band, so there are only 3 channels available without interference for HT20. There is only one channel for HT40. Therefore, it is impractical to increase the speed in 2.4GHz with the wide band technology.

In the 5GHz frequency range, there are 3 bands (5.2, 5.3, 5.6GHz) assigned in Japan. There are 8 channels in the HT20 bandwidth that don't overlap in 5.2GHz and 5.3GHz. In 5.6GHz (the newest frequency range), 11 channels (HT20) are reserved. Consequently, it seems the 802.11ac has ability to achieve higher speed. But this condition is just applicable in Japan.

Availability of channels in 5GHz is regulated by country. Some countries, including China and Korea, allow the use of HT20 channels only. It is impractical to increase the speed in such regions.

Summary

Wide band technology is also capable of achieving higher speed transfer without dramatic improvement of current technology. It is also good for smaller/lower-power products. However, there aren't many channels available to secure the necessary bandwidth. It is hard to avoid interference which results in decreasing performance. 802.11ac might be popular as an upgraded version of HT40. It depends on the radio law by country and interference environmental condition to achieve two/four times higher speed transfer. The wide band technology is still unreliable as a resource for high speed.

10 Wi-Fi Predictions for 2012

 
Wi-Fi technology has become so ubiquitous that even computer publications like PC Magazine published Wi-Fi predictions for 2012. These trends have some relevance to Silex and our customers that are looking to add Wi-Fi connectivity to their devices. My comments are in parentheses.
1. Single-band routers go obsolete (dual-band is moving from being a “niche” technology used for high reliability applications to becoming a mainstream technology required to stream video content).
2. Death of legacy 802.11x (specifically 802.11b and 802.11g).
3. 802.11ac (all of the major Wi-Fi silicon vendors have already announced 802.11ac products including Qualcomm Atheros).
4. Wi-Gig (maybe more of a 2013 technology).
5. Wi-Fi in household items (first the TV and next the refrigerator?).
6. Remote Home Network Management (why not since apps are being used for remotely control other devices in the home?).
7. More widespread Wi-Fi (public access will expand beyond airports and coffee shops).
8. Easier Deployment (WPS and other proprietary efforts will continue to improve ease of use).
9. Coverage trumps speed (2012 should see vendors paying much more attention to "whole home" coverage to reduce dropped signals and dead zones since throughput speed is already often faster than the pipe into the home).
10. Client adapters play catch-up (clients like laptops will start incorporating higher performance technology that are already common in routers).

Press Release: Silex Technology America Introduces 802.11a/b/g/n, Dual-Band Solutions Based on Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 Chip

 

Silex Technology America Introduces 802.11a/b/g/n, Dual-Band Solutions Based on Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 Chip


SANTA ANA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2012 – Silex Technology, a global leader in wired and wireless networking solutions, today launched the SX-SDPAN System-in-Package (SiP) and the SX-SDMAN wireless radio module.

According to ABI Research, the Wi-Fi equipment market is expected to see more than nine percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2011 to 2016, with the enterprise segment contributing the bulk of the growth at more than 21 percent CAGR. With a skyrocketing number of Wi-Fi devices crowding the 2.4GHz band, Wi-Fi users are looking for dual-band products that leverage the 5GHz band for applications requiring relatively interference-free bandwidth. The SX-SDPAN and SX-SDMAN provide a cost-effective way for manufacturers to add dual-band wireless capabilities in addition to integrated Bluetooth 4.0 support.

Silex Technology based the SX-SDPAN on Qualcomm Atheros’ third-generation SDIO WLAN technology (AR6003). The SX-SDPAN brings 802.11n throughput, range and power efficiency to portable electronic devices.

The SX-SDPAN features:

    • High-performance, ultra-low power, single stream (1x1) dual-band SDIO SiP with IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN plus advanced Bluetooth 4.0 combo solution.

    • Bluetooth 3.0+HS (High Speed) and Bluetooth 4.0+LE (Low Energy) standards enabling seamless integration of Bluetooth/WLAN.

    • Best-in-class receive sensitivity for superior throughput.

    • Industry leading security including WPS and WEP/WPA/WPA2.

    • Near zero power consumption in idle and stand-by enables user to leave WLAN and BT “always on.”

    • Advanced BT/WLAN coexistence and concurrent RX for superior rate-over-range and very low frequency.


The SX-SDMAN wireless radio module integrates the SX-SDPAN SiP to offer the following benefits:

    • Highest product quality (design and production validation). Silex Technology significantly reduces RF-related design integration and tests its design to perform to IEEE standards. In addition, Silex Technology tests each module individually to ensure that each of its products will perform to the published specification.

    • FCC/Telec modular certification. Silex Technology eliminates the need for re-testing radio intentional radiation for obtaining regulatory approvals.

    • Upgrade path. The SX-SDMAN is pin-compatible with the SX-SDMGN wireless radio module released in 2011, providing device manufacturers with the option to offer both a single-band and dual-band solution. In addition, Silex Technology expects to introduce modules that incorporate  next-generation Qualcomm Atheros radios into the same physical form factor.


“We are quite pleased with Silex Technology’s radio frequency and design capabilities because they give our customers the opportunity to leverage the AR6003 Wi-Fi chip for optimized throughput, size and energy efficiency for mobile and embedded devices,” said Gary Szilagyi, vice president and general manager, consumer electronics group, Qualcomm Atheros. “Consumers of smartphones, mobile gaming and portable consumer electronic devices will benefit from the combined technology expertise of Silex Technology and Qualcomm Atheros.”

“We are exceptionally qualified to enable device manufacturers to integrate Qualcomm Atheros AR6003 technology into products,” said Keith Sugawara, vice president, business development, Silex Technology America. “Silex Technology America can help shorten the time to market with our new products and engineering design services. Plus, as a Qualcomm Atheros Authorized Design Center (ADC), we provide the driver and security supplicant to provide an efficient and seamless single-vendor total solution.”

The SX-SDPAN and SX-SDMAN samples now are available for evaluation. Silex Technology also provides an evaluation kit (part number SX-6K3-EVK-DB), which includes a sample radio driver and tools to test basic wireless functionality, throughput and RF characteristics.

A photo of the SX-SDMAN is available at: http://www.silexamerica.com/images/products/wireless_modules/sx-sdman_large.jpg

About Silex Technology America, Inc.
Silex Technology America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Silex Technology Inc., a 35-year developer and leading network technology company specializing in network and wireless technology, providing hardware, software, embedded modules and turnkey connectivity products. Silex Technology has regional offices for sales, marketing and development in Japan, United States and Germany. Silex Technology is integrated vertically to support customers from design to production, maintaining the highest quality standards. For more information, please visit www.silexamerica.com.

Missions for Wireless LAN (1)

 

IEEE802.11b was first introduced in September, 1999.  IEEE802.11b is now recognized as the first wireless LAN standard.  Over ten years later, IEEE802.11n is now the latest standard.  The transfer speed which used to be 12Mbps is now 600Mbps (theoretical maximum value).  WEP was the first encryption technology but has been replaced by WPA/WPA2.  For initial setup, WPS is getting popular, which enables users to connect devices by just pushing a button.


In this series of articles, I would like to share my view of the future trends for Wireless LAN’s.  The first subject is about people's unstoppable thirst: "to be faster".

To Be Faster – 1:  Multi-Streaming

802.11n uses MIMO technology (see note below), to allow multiple antennas to distribute separate communication channels (streams) at both the transmitter and receiver to improve communication performance.  Put simply, as the number of streams increase, the transfer speed should be faster (Multi-streaming).  802.11n is designed to offer up to 600Mbps (theoretical value) and 4 streams (each stream offers up to 150Mbps).  Conventional 802.11n products mainly offer 1 to 2 streams although recently, 3-stream products have entered the market.

(Note) MIMO stands for Multi-Input /Multi-Output.

I'm not sure yet if 3 or 4-stream products will become common because MIMO requires multiple antennas (one per stream).  MIMO's antennas need to be installed apart (e.g. about 6cm apart for 1/2 wave/2.4GHz band), so a multi-stream MIMO device would end up with many antennas projecting from every direction.  Sheet-type or chip-type internal antennas are available for PCs and tablets so they could be kept inside the enclosures.  But smaller portable devices including Smart Phones don't have an enough space on the PCB to install antennas for multi-stream MIMO.

Summary

Multi-streaming is capable of achieving higher speed transfer without dramatic improvement of current technology.  However, it has difficulties for smaller/cheaper/low-power products. Multi-stream technology may be popular for PCs and built-in TVs.  It isn't good for small portable devices due to mechanical challenges supporting MIMO with more than 2 streams (antennas).
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