TSR is interoperability Holy Grail
TechnoConcepts recently demonstrated the ability of its True Software Radio, or TSR, technology to process a broad range of radio frequencies signals without using any of the traditional front-end analog and RF circuitry.
During a June demonstration in Seoul for South Korean wireless communications companies, a prototype wireless receiver using only a single TSR chip and software was able to receive, translate and process remote signals between 450 MHz and 1.2 GHz , including a consumer FRS handset operating at 465 MHz. “This is analogous to every member at the United Nations being able to communicate directly with each other, in their own native language, without a translator,” said Tony Turgeons, TechnoConcepts CEO.
The successful demonstration before 16 major manufacturers and South Korean government officials has excited industry analysts tracking the company’s patented technology. “The technology risk is taken out of the story,” said Tammer Fahmy, an independent analyst/consultant for institutional investors. “[TSR] is the Holy Grail of the telecommunications industry. It enables any radio to receive and transmit any RF signal, so it can go into any device. It enables interoperability and standard communications irrespective of protocol and frequencies.”
Fahmy predicted that the technology would enable the consolidation and convergence of wireless devices.
“It’s a very disruptive technology across the telecommunications industry. You can download a baseband code for a WCDMA or an ultrawideband [frequency], or one for your garage opener. People will end up with one device that does a lot of things.”
More advanced demonstrations in the U.S. and China are coming soon, according to TechnoConcepts CTO Ron Hickling. “We’re working on another demonstration where we’re going to do cross-banding and cross protocol,” he said. “We’ll be able to take a simple walkie-talkie and have it act as a repeater on the same frequency for GSM phones.”
According to Hickling, one Chinese manufacturer already plans to use the TSR chip in a consumer cable TV set-top box that will receive IP television signals and act as a Wi-Fi access point. Using the TSR chip for both cable RF signals and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi broadcasts reduces the total number of parts in the box, making it both cheaper and more reliable — in a conventional design, separate dedicated chips would be required for the cable and Wi-Fi signals.
“There are a lot of applications that are completely unserved that require convergence between different RF solutions talking to each other,” Hickling said. “From there, we’ll move into existing applications where we’ll improve the solution that’s available.”
Applications that have been identified as a good fit for the TSR chip include cellular base stations, military and first-responder communications, and a host of consumer devices. A TSR-based radio could easily switch from radio communication frequencies to cellular and even satellite frequencies at the push of a button. Commercial cellular manufacturers could build multi-mode phones capable of using cellular frequencies and unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz airwaves without resorting to multiple RF chips. Fahmy said that the ability to create a multi-mode phone could usher in a new era of “wireless roaming” where consumers could make phone calls on the least-expensive network available within range.
Others point out that TechnoConcepts has more work to do before they break out the champagne.
“The handset market is a very difficult market to penetrate,” said Chad Hart, a director at market research firm Venture Development Capital Corp. “You have to work with cellular vendors and infrastructure manufacturers, [and that] limits what a handset manufacturer can do. As a small company that doesn’t have any products in this space, it’s going to be very difficult. On paper, they have hired a lot of the people with the right connections to get into the space. We’ll see.”
However, Hart noted that even one success could be highly lucrative. “If you get a design win, it’s millions of their product [out there.] They only need to get a couple of design wins to make a lot of market share.”