Analog Angle Article

Point-to-point embedded 240-to-960 MHz RF link gets feature-rich TX/RX front end

Austin, Texas–Targeting the burgeoning embedded RF market for applications such as remote keyless entry (RKE), tire-pressure monitoring, alarms, weather stations, toy and game controllers, and meter reading, a new IC family from Silicon Laboratories Inc. claims improved RF performance for both the transmit and receive paths, as well as internal functions which significantly off-load the companion microcontroller (MCU) and minimize overhead.

The EZRadioPro™ family, covering 240 to 960 MHz, includes an integrated low noise amplifier (LNA) yielding overall sensitivity of -118 dBm, which the vendor claims is 8 dB better than available competing solutions. On the transmit side, the power amplifier (PA) develops +20 dBm output power, 10 dB better than available products. Together, the transmit power and receive sensitivity yield a basic link budget of 138 dBm, compared to 120 dBm for competing approaches, says Silicon Labs, who also maintains that operation over 2000 meters is possible with this link budget

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The front end also supports a pair of diversity antennas to overcome multipath fading and polarization problems, for improved BER and range, with antenna selection performed within the IC; this diversity can reduce required transmit power by 9.4 dB compared to a single antenna for equivalent performance, says the vendor.

The IC supports packet handling, wake-up timers, temperature sensing, and low-battery detection, along with very fast cycle times for extremely low duty cycle and, thus, low power consumption. Internal registers allow the user to tailor operating specifics such as data rate to the application.

The EZRadioPRO is designed to work with the vendor's C8051F9xx microcontroller family, thus providing a complete 0.9 V, single-cell design via internal dc/dc converters. Sleep-mode current or the radio IC is 50 nA, for extreme long-life operation where changing batteries is awkward or impossible, and the MCU can sleep for up to 26 hours without polling, for long-term data-acquisition needs.

Tools and development support include a software development board, and RF module for quicker prototyping, and a wireless development suite with PC-based GUI software tools including a terminal emulator and a chip configurator. The supporting software includes media-access control (MAC) modules to handle the communication link and frequency-hopping software to meet FCC regulations. Users can also get reference-design schematics' and layouts to speed design and implementation.–by Bill Schweber

Pricing and availability : The EZRadioPRO IC family is housed in 20-pin QFN packages, with prcies spanning $1.31 to $2.91 (10k units), and is available now.

For more information : Silicon Laboratories Inc,

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