RealTime IT News

Chip Platform Reduces Time to Market

Officials at Agere Systems introduced Wednesday an integrated circuit platform, cutting down development time for new communications equipment by six months.

In today's world -- where computers seem to be obsolete a few months after rollout and new wireless phones (with the cool new feature you've been dying to use) come out two weeks after you bought another model -- the time its takes can make or break an equipment manufacturer.

Based on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation's (TSMC) Nexsys 90 nanonmeter (nm) process for wafer fabrication, the application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) semiconductor technology platform is part of Agere's bid to shave months off the time it takes to bring a new product from the drawing board to the customer. Preferably before the competition brings out its product.

"The time it takes to get a new product out is shrinking, so it's important to make them sooner," said Cindy Genther, Agere's marketing director. "Using the ASIC platform, (they) can take a pre-designed template and put them on a chip."

ASIC lets equipment makers buy pre-designed integrated chips for communications gear that get dropped into the product directly, without having to build an integrated circuit solution from scratch.

What's more, officials say the 90-nm process technology node the circuits are built upon make for more speed at lower power rates, using the finest wire-width possible for integrated chips. The company points to an optimal speed rate of 2.5 Gbit/sec using under 80 milliwatts of power per channel.

"That means you can cram more cell phone calls in one base station," said Charlie Hartley, Agere spokesperson. "It's all about squeezing it down and improving performance."

Officials said the new technology effectively doubles the channel density currently found in today's process technology and halves the chips needed in a particular piece of equipment.

Genther made the comparison between cell phones in the 1980s, which were large, bulky and awkward. Today's cell phones have the same, if not more, processing power of those relics of the past. At this rate, she said, people will have cell phones that fit in the ear and connect to a mini-keypad sooner rather than later.

Agere has just started pricing the ASIC platform to interested customers -- who include equipment makers Nortel Networks and Alcatel and cell phone companies like Nokia -- and plans to start designing ASIC chips later this year. Production will start sometime in 2003.