NEWS BRIEFS, June 2002

Chinese IC Design Center Partners with Credence

Credence Systems, Fremont, CA, announces a partnership with the Chinese government-sponsored Nation I.C. Design Industrial Base (NICD IB) in Beijing, China. NICD IB, with the help of Credence, will provide technology resources to more than 65 local design houses and 10 major universities. Under the partnership, Credence will provide NICD IB with testing technology with the installation of a Quartet system-on-chip (SoC) production test system.

Transeurosat Completes Satellite Internet Connectivity Trials

Transeurosat of Belgium has completed a 6-month series of satellite Internet connectivity tests involving earth station equipment and Internet conversion software elements. The test proved that all elements of the system work to specification for both reception and transmission over satellite. Most important, single-user connection speeds exceeded specification by more than 50%, demonstrating the efficiency of the equipment forming the link. For the ordinary PC user connected over satellite, the browsing performance was shown to be over 3 times better than by terrestrial means.

STMicro Introduces Low Power Transceiver IC

STMicroelectronics has introduced a low-power RS-485/RS-422 transceiver IC. The ST485E benefits from +/-15 KV electrostatic discharge protection without latch-up, according to the company. STMicro's ST485E is designed for half-duplex bi-directional data communications on multipoint bus transmission lines with up to 64 transceivers connected to one bus. Containing one driver and one receiver, ST485E operates from a 5V supply, and draws a quiescent current of 300(u)A when unloaded or fully loaded with disabled drivers. Protected against excessive power dissipation by thermal shutdown circuitry that puts the driver outputs into a high-impedance state, the driver has short-circuit current limiting and maintains high impedance when in tri-state mode or when the power is off, STMicro said. The company added that the receiver input has a fail-safe feature that guarantees a logic-high output if the input is open circuit.

XtremeSpectrum Unveils First Chipset for Ultra-wideband Wireless Market

XtremeSpectrum Inc., Vienna, VA., has announced that it is the world's first company to deliver a commercial ultrawideband (UWB) chip set that complies with the Federal Communications Commission's rules for unlicensed usage. Achieving 100-megabit-per-second (Mbps) data rates and consuming less than 200 mW of power, XtremeSpectrum's Trinity chip set is geared for digital displays, camcorders, DVD players, digital video recorders and digital cameras. Based on a 0.18-micron silicon germanium (SiGe) technology, the chip set is comprised of four components. The XSI141 is a medium access controller, based on the emerging IEEE802.15.3 standard. It also includes the XSI122 digital base band function, the XSI112 RF transmit and receive component, and the XSI102 low-noise amplifier. The Trinity chip set is implemented using a modified compact flash form factor reference design. The reference design incorporates a patented omni-directional antenna design that is printed on standard PCB.

TSMC Shrinks CMOS Transistors

TSMC, the world's largest dedicated semiconductor foundry, has demonstrated a working device which uses CMOS transistors that are about 10 times smaller than those made with today's most advanced production technology. The transistor, a variation on today's FETs, is known as a FinFET because in three dimensions the company claims it resembles the backfin of a fish. It has been researched by IBM, among others. TSMC has produced operational FinFETs at gate lengths as small as 35nm. Initial testing of the p- and n-type transistors revealed compliance with the current and leakage targets set by industry roadmaps for transistor of this size. TSMC claims that new performance records are being set, but would not comment further about the transistors operating specifications.

Traditional transistors involve two components, one providing source and drain routes for the electrical current and the other gating the current. As semiconductor technology is scaled to ever-smaller feature sizes, gating becomes more difficult, leading to high current leakage and hot semiconductors. FinFET overcomes these difficulties by providing a second gate to allow both sides of the source and drain structure to be closed at the same time. TSMC says double gating in this manner provides better control and reduces leakage, allowing the transistor size to be shrunk further and current to be increased.

TSMC believes its technology will allow the industry to extend the life of CMOS technology by about two decades.

IC Makers, OEMs Define New Multimedia Standard

A consortium of chipmakers and OEMs has announced the first specifications for a new and emerging high-definition multimedia interface standard. The technology is geared for a new class of consumer electronic devices and other products.

The recently-formed consortium, dubbed the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) Founders, include Hitachi, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Philips, Silicon Image, Sony, Thomson, and Toshiba. The companies have hammered out the version 0.9 standard, which defines the next-generation digital interface for consumer electronics. The specification is now available for review at the group's Web site:

Designed to usher in the new era of digital entertainment, HDMI combines high-definition video and multi-channel audio in a single digital interface with a bandwidth of up to 5-gigabits-per-second. The benefits include uncompressed digital quality, fewer cables and a small, user-friendly connector. HDMI also builds upon the success and is backward compatible with the Digital Visual Interface (DVI) standard. The companies have outlined the following features of HDMI: the integration of audio by using auxiliary pocketsize data transfer technology; designing the 15-mm, 19-pin HDMI interface for consumer-electronic devices; and incorporating High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP).

China Unicom to Deploy Optical Long Haul Backbone Solution from Nortel Networks

To address accelerating demand for high-speed mobile Internet services and e-commerce applications, China Unicom will deploy Optical Long Haul backbone networks from Nortel Networks at its Beijing headquarters and in Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces under contracts collectively estimated to be worth US$14 million.

China Unicom is China's leading alternate telecommunications network operator, providing long distance and international telephone services, data services, paging services and mobile communications to some 40 million GSM wireless subscribers.

Under the contracts, China Unicom will deploy Nortel Networks OPTera* Long Haul 1600 Optical Line Systems, as well as Nortel Networks Preside* network management system. Nortel Networks OPTera Long Haul 1600 uses dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, maximizing optical fiber capacity by splitting light into as many as 160 channels and allowing more data to be carried across the Internet backbone. DWDM facilitates multi-terabit systems with high-bandwidth receivers and electronic circuits.

Nortel Networks has worked closely with China Unicom in recent years, securing numerous wireless contracts to build and expand GSM and CDMA networks to serve approximately 15 million subscribers in Zhejiang, Chongqing, Shandong, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hunan, Ningxia, Heilongjiang, Henan and Xinjiang. Nortel Networks has also been awarded 12 metro network contracts from China Unicom to build ATM multiservice and Optical Ethernet networks.

New Cable Modem Specifications

Cable Television Laboratories (known as CableLabs), a consortium of cable operators from North and South America, has completed the specification for DOCSIS 2.0 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification). The specification boosts the capacity of the upstream side of the connection compared to the previous version to 30 megabits per second in both directions, CableLabs said in a statement.

DOCSIS 2.0 defines two modulation techniques: S-CDMA (synchronous code division multiple access) and A-TDMA (advanced frequency-agile time division multiple access).

Interoperability testing of products is due to start in the first quarter of this year and certification testing is expected by the third quarter, the consortium said. Cable operators and suppliers have been working on the new specification since 1998, CableLabs said.