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Infineon, Micron Team on 'CellularRAM' Chips

Chipmakers Infineon and Micron on Monday announced a deal to team up on the development of specs for CellularRAM, a memory chip for 2.5G and 3G handsets.

The rival firms, facing an industry-wide probe into allegations of anti-competitive practices in the DRAM chipmaking sector, described CellularRAM as a new family of low power Pseudo Static RAM (PSRAM) for wireless applications.

The companies are aiming the new chips squarely at the heavily-hyped 2.5G and 3G handset markets, claiming the new type of PSRAM device would meet the memory and bandwidth demand at a lower cost/bit ratio than current or proposed alternatives. "CellularRAM memory is a drop-in replacement for the asynchronous low-power SRAM typically used in today's cell phone designs," the companies declared in a joint statement.

CellularRAM is based on a single transistor DRAM cell versus a six-transistor (6T) SRAM cell, promising significant advantages over traditional SRAM .

Micron and Infineon said the CellularRAM product would include components with an SRAM-type interface for replacement applications and products featuring a burst read and write mode that emulates a Flash interface. The companies are promising products that operate at clock rates as high as 108MHz, have an initial latency of 60 ns and achieve a sustained bandwidth of 210MB/s (1.6Gb/s).

"The intent of the cooperative development agreement is to make CellularRAM memory a multi-sourced standard for the memory subsystems of next generation 2.5G (GPRS, EDGE) handsets and entry-level 3G (UMTS) terminals," the companies said.

Micron, which has headquarters Idaho and the German Infineon plan to launch CellularRAM devices within the next year, starting with a 32Mb device, organized as 2Meg x 16, scheduled for initial availability in late 2002.

The companies said a 16Mb and a 64Mb device, organized as 1Meg x 16 and 4Meg x 16 respectively, will be available in the first half of 2003. The CellularRAM devices are powered from a single 1.8V supply and offer 2.5V and 3.0V I/O voltage options as well.

The rival firms said pin- and function-compatible products would be manufactured, based on a jointly developed specification but each company plans to manufacture the products using their own process technology.

The partnership deal comes as the U.S. Justice Department has slapped grand jury subpoenas against both companies in connection with antitrust allegations. Micron, Infineon, Samsung and Hynix, four of the biggest names in the semiconductor group, have all been contacted in connection with the probe, which is believed to be centered around charges of underpricing and dumping that surfaced in recent years.

Separately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed antitrust charges against Los Angeles-based Rambus Inc. , alleging the firm deceptively pushed for adoption of its technology while it was quietly filing for patent approvals.

The FTC has accused Rambus of deceiving the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC), a standards body, by not revealing its work on several pending patents that would allow it to effectively control standards JEDEC put in place. The FTC voted 5-0 to bring the charges, saying Rambus stood to gain $1 billion from the technology over its lifetime. Rambus has denied the charges.