IBM Unveils Fastest Networking Chips

By @NY Staff

IBM is unveiling what it calls the world’s fastest semiconductor circuit, operating at speeds of over 110 GigaHertz (GHz) and processing an electrical signal in 4.3 trillionths of a second.

The circuit relies on IBM’s latest silicon germanium (SiGe) chip-making technology, which helps extend basic silicon to new breakthrough speeds.

Already in use in a bevy of both high speed wired and low cost wireless gear, the technology is expected to help fiber-optic networks and other networking operate at unheard-of new speeds.

IBM said it is now making the technology, dubbed “SiGe 8HP,” available to top-tier communications equipment makers.

SiGe is a process technology in which the electrical properties of silicon, the material underlying virtually all modern microchips, is augmented with germanium that helps the chips operate more efficiently and for less processing cost.

IBM also said it is collaborating on SiGe 8HP circuit designs with a select set of customers in the development and qualification stages of commercial wired applications. In addition, IBM also announced two offerings for wireless chip communications: the SiGe 5PA and SiGe 5DM variants.

The new chips consume the same power as the 10-billion-bit standard but are equipped to process 40 billion bits of information per second.

The announcement is part of the 2002 Compound Semiconductor Outlook Conference in San Mateo, Calif.

Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and vice president of the IBM Communications Research and Development Center, said “many chip-makers are just starting to show they can build SiGe transistors, while we’re into our fourth generation of the technology.”

IBM first unveiled its SiGe technology 12 years ago. In 1998, it introduced it into the industry’s first standard, high-volume SiGe chips.

Since then the SiGe technology has been adopted for a number of applications, including RF components in cellular handsets, Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) chipsets, high speed test and measurement equipment, and chipsets for optical data transmission systems, the company said.

Sierra Monolithics, Inc., which has been working with IBM on SiGe integrated circuit designs since 1996, said it would be among the first companies to design circuits based on the new technology.

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