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DesignArt Networks brings in-band backhaul and mesh to WiMAX

25 июня 2008

Israeli semiconductor start-up DesignArt Networks has revived a concept that was voguish a couple of years back in Wi-Fi mesh, and applied it to licensed band WiMAX and, in future LTE. This is the integration of backhaul and access into a single compact unit that can be used to build dense underlay networks with many of the elements self-backhauling, to reduce the pressure on leased lines or other options.

The fabless chip company, which boasts strategic investment from Motorola, has come out of stealth mode and unveiled its first product, a WiMAX system on chip (SoC) targeted at systems for smaller or metrozone carriers, or for the rising trend for even major operators to build out new networks initially in dense hotzones for areas of high demand, handing off outside the zone to 3G for wide area coverage.

The DAN2400 device is based on multiple ARM cores and a software-centric architecture. The chip includes PHY and MAC functions for a Mobile WiMAX base station and includes a DSP core to control a six-channel antenna module, an embedded high capacity network processor and several control plane CPUs.

Rather as mesh companies like BelAir did in metro Wi-Fi, DesignArt offers a platform that can use part of the available spectrum for backhaul and some for access (in-band backhaul or in-band relay). It can also be used purely for access, with the company promising SoCs that will be applicable to many base station formats, especially those used for hotzones and underlays, such as picocells and femtocells; or purely for backhaul units - but DesignArt expects the main demand to come from suppliers of integrated products, who will be able to offer a relatively low cost, flexible option to operators, that will make the economics of mobile broadband add up more easily in some early markets.

With WiMAX and LTE deployments weighted towards small, densely deployed cells, there is a need for innovative approaches to maximizing capacity for true broadband applications, as well as addressing the backhaul shortage that is afflicting many 3G and post-3G roll-outs, including that of the enlarged Clearwire. An in-band backhaul network would typically be deployed in a mesh architecture, though DesignArt - which admits it is eager to avoid associations with Wi-Fi mesh because of the commercial failure of many metrozones - says its product could also be used in point-to-point, 'big stick' deployments.

"As more cells are needed for increased coverage and capacity, an underlay network of cost effective and compact outdoor and indoor micro, pico and femtocells is required to complete the macrocellular network. The backhaul of these cells is one of the most critical impediments for 4G roll-out," said Oz Barak, CEO of DesignArt, in a statement.

Although DesignArt's low power SoC is probably a year away from incorporation in commercial base stations, and it needs to win CPE interoperability partners as well as customers, the approach it is pioneering could gain increased momentum from the finalization, late this year of the 802.16j standard. This addresses Mobile Multihop Relay, for relay base stations that extend range and fill gaps in the RAN, as well as for in-band backhaul. It has been somewhat eclipsed recently, with many WiMAX vendors and chipmakers ambivalent about investing in it, or regarding femtocells as a better way to increase capacity and coverage at low cost, and with user-supplied backhaul. However, with the return on investment on mobile broadband networks still looking uncertain with the spread of flat rate access and bandwidth hungry applications, any approach that promises to reduce capex and opex, and increase capacity and efficiency, will attract interest and will find appropriate markets.

DesignArt is also working on an LTE basestations SoC, and expects in-band relaying to be more important in this market than in WiMAX. "We have an LTE program ongoing and will deliver LTE chipsets. We know that the same value proposition is even more applicable for LTE networks in the sense of service aggregation and distributed radio access networks simply because of the ever increasing bandwidth requirements and the fact that these multimedia services are mostly going to be consumed indoors," said Joachim Hallwachs, the start-up's head of marketing.

DesignArt was founded in 2006 and employs about 30 people. The company's original venture capital investors were Carmel Ventures and Magma Venture Partners, and these were joined by Motorola Ventures in the second round late last year.


Caroline Gabriel, Weekly Features Contributing Editor 

Источник: WiMAX Trends

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