Atmel Corporation has collaborated with Montreal's fabless design house, Wavesat, to develop a WiMAX mini-PCI reference design that provides lowest-cost WiMAX-compliant customer premise equipment (CPE). Developed to provide OEMs with a quickly deployable WiMAX end-product, the reference design will include Atmel's MAX-Link AT86RF535A 3.5 GHz WiMAX-specific transceiver, Wavesat's DM256 baseband, interfaces, all external filters and components and software in a mini-PCI module. With an expected bill of materials (BOM) of less than $100, this design is projected to save OEMs 25% in cost compared to competing WiMAX CPE solutions, stated Atmel. It will be available in July.

The low BOM cost of the reference design is attributable to Atmel's AT86RF535A MAX-Link low-IF transceiver. The MAX-Link transceiver achieves -34 dBm of TX-EVM, including Balun, exceeding the requirement for WiMAX certification, and has fewer external components than conventional, off-the-shelf 802.16 radios. It includes a bandwidth-programmable integrated channel filter for receive and transmit, complete integrated synthesizer, digital gain setting for the receive path with 96 dB gain range, digital transmit power control with more than 50 dB control range, integrated image rejection and LO leakage digital control settings and detectors. It does not require external SAW filters.

The AT86RF535A does not require offset cancellation circuitry, a high-resolution-controlled TCVCX or a high-resolution synthesizer. It requires only 10 µs to switch between Tx and Rx modes — a significant savings over the 100 µs typically required by dual-conversion radios. An integrated on-chip programmable synthesizer provides frequency resolution up to the required -30 dB subcarrier certification limit. The 10 µs settling time supports Rx/Tx frequency switching in hybrid frequency-division duplexing (HFDD) systems.

The high level of integration of the AT86RF535A, combined with its low IF architecture, result in a miniPCI WiMAX end-product that has 20% fewer components and $30 less cost in the BOM than any available reference design, according to Atmel.

The mini-PCI board with Atmel RF will be included in Wavesat WiMAX reference kits. Kits will include a complete WiMAX system, software license with full maintenance contract, and reference design including BOM and Gerber files.

While Atmel's AT86RF535A MAX-Link radio is available in an 8 mm × 8 mm 56-lead QFN package, the manufacturer is developing additional MAX-Link radios to be introduced in 2006 and 2007 that will cover the full range of WiMAX frequency profiles.

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