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ZigBee faces Bluetooth ‘Lite’ challenge

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The ZigBee Alliance’s prospect of carving out a share of the low-rate wireless personal area network (WPAN) could hinge on its ability to deliver a final specification in a timely manner, including completed, successful interoperability tests, says analyst firm In-Stat/MDR (a sister organisation to Electronics News).

According to the company, if these milestones are not achieved in a reasonable amount of time, other competing wireless technologies could take hold in this sector, such as a yet-to-be-determined low-rate Ultra-Wideband WPAN alternate PHY or a potential Bluetooth “Lite” version. (See Electronics News 28 Aug 03 page 14.)

In-Stat/MDR also reports that 802.15.4/ZigBee node/chipset annual shipments to break 160 million in 2008; average sales prices will rapidly decline; however, the average pricing for all shipments will be dependent on the ratio of reduced function devices to full function devices.

Over the forecast period, the firm sees the lion’s share of the 802.15.4/ZigBee market being dominated by the 2.4-GHz band; however, it adds that there is significant activity for 915-MHz, primarily in North America. Additional interest could ensue for 868-MHz when more channels are added for the European band, which is under way.

Meanwhile, ZigBee Alliance member ChipCon (distributed by Clarke & Severn ) has released the CC2420, which it claims is the industry’s first 2.4 GHz, 802.15.4 compliant RF transceiver. The CC2420 is targeted for use in home and building automation, industrial monitoring and control systems, and wireless sensor networks.

“Chipcon believes IEEE 802.15.4 has the potential to significantly impact the marketplace, as there is now one global standard focusing on low data rate, low power and low cost applications,” says John Helge Fjellheim, Vice President of Component Sales. “We also believe that the ZigBee technology will be well accepted as, finally, there is one technology enabling interoperability between cost-effective, low-power, low-data-rate, standard-based wireless networking solutions.”

According to Fjellheim, the CC2420 can also be used as a general 2.4-GHz direct sequence spread spectrum device for a number of proprietary solutions not using 802.15.4 or ZigBee. The CC2420 is based on the company’s “SmartRF 03” technology in 0.18 µm CMOS. The CC2420 surpasses the IEEE 802.15.4 standard in terms of selectivity and sensitivity figures and, in accordance with the standard, the device supports 250 kbit/s data transfer.

The chip supports packet radio, data buffering (128-Byte RX + 128-Byte TX), burst transmissions, clear channel assessment, link quality indication and timing information. By reducing the load on the host microcontroller, these functions allow CC2420 to interface with low-cost microcontrollers.

The CC2420 is offered in a 7 by 7-mm QFN 48 package. Samples are available now and volume shipments will start in January 2004.The company says it will also provide customers of the CC2420 with IEEE 802.15.4 MAC layer software.

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