"We are literally on the cusp of a revolution in connecting devices to the web"
Weightless has just taken a substantial step forward with the announcement of the roadmap for the five key hardware components to enable the ecosystem, silicon, modules, development kits, base stations and deployed networks.
With a wave of interest in the various potentials of white space spectrum gaining pace around the world, a two-day conference in London at the end of September quite literally signalled that this moment had arrived.
While the fact that around half the 150 or so attendees had a focus on real-world applications of Weightless M2M technology – with significant presences from Europe, the US and Asia – it was the presentation on the first day from Stan Boland, CEO of Weightless product manufacturer, Neul, that showed how far and how fast this technology has emerged from concept to production with firm dates for product availability.
On the silicon side, he announced that tape out production of its UHF radio chip operating at 169-876 MHz would begin this November with volume production starting in Q2 2014. Base stations would become available in the first half of 2014, supported by an Ethernet connection for backhaul, a Power-over-Ethernet supply and panel Omni/Sectorised Antennas. Weightless modules costing around US$12 would be available in 2014, with both price and component size planned to drop substantially over the next couple of years, costs falling to $4 or less by 2016. Development kits for applications will be available in Q2 2014.
"This is a huge milestone for the Weightless ecosystem"
The importance of this announcement to the growing Weightless community was recognised by Professor William Webb, Weightless SIG CEO, who commented, "This is a huge milestone for the Weightless ecosystem and will for the first time enable the wider developer community to engage meaningfully with the technology. Almost half the attendees at the Summit were applications providers – all very keen to take equipment and start delivering exciting solutions. The progress of Neul and others shows that they won’t have to wait very long!"
For the IoT application development community, one of the most eagerly anticipated announcements this year has been that of Weightless hardware. On these pages we are setting out the current roadmap for a complete set of hardware from silicon to modules, SDKs to base stations and even to real world network deployment. We are including outline details of the specifications, the costs and the timeframe for availability. This is an evolving roadmap and the content on these pages reflects the current projections. We will be adding to this as more milestones are announced from more vendors and as further details and specifications are released - so check back often!
The starting point for any endpoint development is Weightless compliant silicon and it’s no surprise to Members that the early silicon will be supplied by Neul, a founder of the Weightless SIG. The first generation of Neul’s Weightless chip, called Iceni, taped out towards the end of 2012 and was under evaluation until its announcement in February 2013. This device was functionally perfect but a re-spin to address some characterisation issues was subsequently taped out in May 2013 and will sample on the first Neul modules. This version integrates a UHF radio operating between 410 and 790 MHz with no blocking issues and supports both TV white space and narrowband operation. It is suitable for low volume production applications.
In November 2013 a third generation chip will tape out, this time destined for volume production. It integrates a UHF radio for operation in the 169 to 876 MHz spectrum and will ship on modules in commercial volume in Q2 2014.
The first generation modules that we are able to announce at this time will be supplied by Neul and will use Neul’s second generation Weightless silicon. These will be available in Q1 2014 and cost approximately USD$12. These first generation modules will measure 35mm x 45mm.
The third generation of Neul’s silicon will enable a cost reduction in 2015 to around USD$7 and subsequent optimisation will reduce the cost to less than USD$4 and 20mm x 24mm in 2016.
Module availability is one of the key drivers behind the rapid, easy access and cost effective deployment of prototype and low volume M2M applications and will enable developers to quickly translate concepts into commercial product.
Available to early access customers in Q1 2014, the first basestations will be based on NeulNET 2510TM. These will support a panel Omni/Sectorised antenna, similar to cellular, a power over Ethernet supply and an Ethernet connection to backhaul. Initially NeulNET 2510TM will support a TV white space downlink in the 470 to 790 MHz spectrum with a narrowband uplink in the 410 to 790 MHz range. Weightless firmware will be implemented in Java and software will run on Linux. Pre-commercial availability will commence in Q2 2014. Initial BTS lease costs will be in the order of "tens of dollars" per month, falling significantly in future generations.
Several Weightless SDKs will be announced here in due course. At this time the first SDKs will be based on a Neul module and will be available to early access customers from Q1 2014 with general release in Q2 2014.
The first Weightless network deployments will take place in the UK and the USA, locations to be announced, during Q2 2014. These will be trial networks using NeulNETTM CDP but will quickly migrate to pre-commercial networks in Q2 2014. Further networks deployed by Neul will follow alongside networks operated by other vendors.
Disclaimer: The Weightless SIG is a standards body that exists to promote Weightless technology and manage the licensing regime for its use. It is neither the role nor intention of the SIG to selectively endorse or promote any Member’s proposition over any other. However, when developments by Members clearly advance the interests of the SIG and its Members then we will bring you details via our multiple communications channels.