IDF Spring 2007 – Day Zero – Radio Harmony and Geneseo

Why Intel is making radios smart and why not everybody is interested in multi-core.

In the near future we’re all going to be carrying around devices bursting with various forms of connectivity, and Intel, good parent that it is, believes that it is its job to make sure that they all play together nicely. Kevin Kahn, Director of Intel’s Communications Technology Lab referred to it as, “an explosion of computation for the common man.” As we all start to expect to have access to our information anytime, anyplace, our gadgets will contain Wi-Fi, Wimax, Bluetooth, DVB, TV and GPS as well as mysterious 60GHz frequencies, which Kahn suggested would be used for future Personal Area Network (PAN) devices.

To cope with all of this, Intel is focussing on optimising every component in its radio chipsets. Antennas will be reconfigurable to switch between frequencies required for the different radios, while other parts of the radio will filter out the noise of the signals. The device will switch very rapidly between the frequencies to ensure that the different radio frequencies will not interfere with eatch other, but to the user it will appear as if each of them are operating at the same time, creating a seamless experience. This is a much more advanced version of the signal hopping that enables Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to co-exist together.

Along with the antennas, the Front-End module, the RFICs and the Baseband MAC will all be designed to interoperate. According to Kahn this is why it would be a bad idea for an ODM to put together a system using chips from different vendors based merely on the lowest price. They simply could not expect them to work properly together. It might sound like good marketing for Centrino, but there’s no denying that it makes sense to get it all from one source, with all the components in the radio designed to be aware of each other.

The picture below is that of an antenna component viewed through a microscope. I don’t know if you can see the teeny, tiny chip but I don’t know why it can be so hard to cram these things into a mobile – they look pretty small to me! I guess that’s why I’m not an electronic engineer.

Either way, Intel isn’t the first company I’ve heard talk about this radio issue; HP was discussing it year.

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