Monday, March 31, 2008

Cellphones integrate RF to cut costs

Lowering cellphone costs by integrating radio components was a running theme at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference.

Broadcom, Infineon and Texas Instruments detailed solutions for pulling more of the RF work into 2.5G digital devices, typically integrated with baseband processors. Separately, Broadcom and the former Analog Devices cellular RF group, now owned by Taiwan's MediaTek, described ways to purge passives from 3G phone designs.

Accessing emerging markets
"There is 100 percent saturation in mature cellphone markets, so continued growth depends on accessing emerging markets, where you need something on the order of a $20 phone. That requires integration," said Bob Staszewski, a member of the technical staff at TI. He described a 90nm, 24mm2 baseband with an integrated quadband radio that is shipping now. The device still requires a 2W power amp, battery charger and SAW filters. Its baseband includes a C54x DSP and an ARM 7 processor running at 104MHz.

Infineon went a step further: A chip now shipping integrates a 250nm power-management device on a substrate with the 130nm baseband and digital radio by means of a system-in-package design. The baseband includes a 260MHz ARM and 178MHz TeakLite DSP.

Tossing the SAW
For Tony Montalvo, a design center director for ADI who co-chaired the session on cellular transceivers, "the more pressing issue is removing external passives. In W-CDMA , quadband designs can require up to seven SAW filters."

MediaTek described a triband W-CDMA/HSDPA transceiver that eliminated six SAW filters and three low-noise amps while cutting the cost of calibrating the radio to meet 3G cellular standards.

Broadcom described a 65nm W-CDMA transmitter that uses a feedback filter to suppress receiver noise while consuming just 65mW. The design eliminated the need for a SAW filter.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

Friday, March 28, 2008

Qualcomm helps Vietnam villages connect to 3G

Qualcomm Inc. is working to improve access to education tools and resources for the Community Technology and Learning Center (CTLC) in Dong Anh, Vietnam through the provision of CDMA2000 1xEV-DO wireless broadband services.
The CTLC is part of the Training Online Programs and Incubation for Communities (TOPIC64) initiative, supported by USAID public/private partnership agreement with Qualcomm through its Wireless Reach initiative and other TOPIC64 partners.

Wireless Reach is working with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak and TOPIC64 partners from Electricity Vietnam Telecom (EVNTelecom), USAID, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and the Center for Research and Consulting on Management (CRC), to empower underserved communities in each of Vietnam's 64 provinces by establishing CTLCs with computers, software and Internet connectivity via 3G CDMA wireless technology. Each organization contributed to the project by providing software, equipment, technical support, management fees for implementing and administrating the project and wireless equipment.

"Wireless Reach is committed to actively support the Vietnamese government in improving Internet penetration rates and the overall educational environment," said Ming Li, VP of business development for Qualcomm. "TOPIC64 cultivates new learning opportunities in Vietnam through the provision of 3G Internet access and Microsoft materials that have been translated into Vietnamese with corresponding training. The CTLCs offer an avenue for local people to get trained on practical applications and skills that hopefully can translate into jobs for them."

TOPIC64 was launched in April 2006 as one of Qualcomm's first Wireless Reach projects. It seeks to educate Vietnamese citizens in basic IT, management and marketing skills by providing technical expertise via teacher training and technical support at each of the CTLCs. With the project's 64 CTLCs established, Qualcomm and EVNTelecom have invested in upgrading the Dong Anh center to EV-DO to enable additional services and enhanced educational learning opportunities on EVNTelecom's new broadband wireless network.

Motorola: Divide to survive‏

Motorola Inc.'s move to restructure the company and separate its struggling mobile phone business from the successful broadband and mobility solutions unit, as announced by CEO Greg Brown, may give the beleaguered handset maker the opportunity to right its leaking ship.
What it doesn't do is change the fundamentals the iconic communications company faces in an increasingly globalized and competitive mobile-device market. And it leaves the door open for up-and-coming handset makers to make their move.

"Motorola today is in the same situation it was in yesterday," said Carmi Levy, senior VP for strategic consulting at AR Communications. "It lacks a viable product map and continues to lose market share to competing vendors that are consistently bringing better products to market."

No hit phones
Not having produced a hit mobile phone since the Razr, introduced in 2004, Motorola has seen its share price decline 45 percent in the last 12 months. Brown, who took over after Ed Zander resigned early this year, is splitting the company into two divisions: the struggling mobile phone business and its broadband and mobility solutions unit, which includes enterprise wireless networks, connected home systems and broadband network gear, including WiMAX technology.

While the handset division has faltered, slipping behind Samsung to fall to No. 3 worldwide in terms of sales, the broadband and mobility unit has enjoyed strong growth in recent quarters.

Revenue from Motorola's enterprise mobility solutions division, which sells wireless networking gear to businesses, jumped 43 percent to $7.7 billion in the most recent quarter, and its operating profit reached $1.2 billion.

One of the benefits of creating an independent, publicly traded handset company is that the enterprise business will no longer be tied to the flailing beast of the mobile phone unit, said Ellen Daley, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

Divided attention
"The attention that the mobile devices business commands both in company attention and financials does not allow their broadband and mobility solutions units to grow fully and get the corporate attention they deserve," Daley said in an e-mail. "And it's a very different business than making phones that consumers buy."

For Motorola's competitors, the news of the split probably looks like chum in the water. Nokia, which now has a dominant 40 percent market share in global mobile phones, "is in an ideal position to dictate the direction of the market as it continues its transition away from commodity voice-focused handsets toward more feature-rich converged devices," said Levy.

And Samsung, whose recent growth has come at the expense of Motorola, can focus on its product strategy of bringing to market a stream of fashion-forward devices—a niche that Motorola once occupied. Samsung previewed its new ultrathin G810 slider phone at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in February.

"What a celebration if you are a competitor," added Daley. "I think if you are Nokia and Samsung, you put your sights on the North American market and grab as much as you can."

In fact, one of the ripple effects of the Motorola announcement likely will be the continued ascendance of Asian device makers, some of which began life as OEMs for better-known Western brands. Along with Samsung, China device-makers HTC Corp. and UTStarcom Inc. are expected to show off ambitious new mobile phone lineups at the CTIA Wireless show in April.

- Richard Martin
Information Week

Thursday, March 27, 2008

WiMAX takes off at airports

WiMAX is set to make its commercial debut at airports, updating manifests, flight plans and onboard entertainment each time a plane lands.
The WiMAX-based technology hardware GateSync will be manufactured by Thales Avionics Inc., use wireless software from Proximetry Inc., and a beam-steerable phased-array antenna from Pinyon Technologies Inc.

"Our GateSync software will bring airliner information-updating into the 21st century," said Michael Sanderson, director of engineering at Proximetry. "Instead of sneaker-net, WiMAX will begin updating onboard information wirelessly as soon as each plane lands."

Airlines currently use "sneaker-net" to update onboard manifests, flight plans and in-flight entertainment files with a person wearing sneakers carrying either a laptop or a stack of tapes to each plane after it lands and physically uploads the necessary information into airliners' computers. By using WiMAX, airliners can automatically sync their onboard computers via GateSync software running on Thales Avionics ground-based computers.

"GateSync automatically syncs up all the necessary information using a WiMAX transmitter and Pinyon antenna array," said Sanderson, "[a]nd even if it does not get all of its in-flight entertainment downloaded before takeoff, the base stations at the next airport will pick up where it left off."

Backup radios
For use in airports not yet wired for WiMAX, Thales Avionics's transmitter hardware has two fall-back radios: one using Wi-Fi and another using regular packet protocols over a cell-phone connection. GateSync also has the ability to finish synching its flight computers by cross-loading from other planes on the tarmac.

Proximetry says it designed the Pinyon's slot-based beam-steerable phased-array antenna for the WiMAX transceivers because it provided more range and higher gain and came in a zero-drag form factor.

"We like the Pinyon antenna both because of its superior performance, compared to conventional antennas, and its form factor, which allows us to mount it on aircraft without penetrating the air frame, something that is not possible with conventional antennas that must be mounted outside the aircraft, thereby creating drag, which translates into extra fuel cost," said Sanderson.

Two of Pinyon's 3.5- x 5-inch beam-steerable antennas will be mounted inside an unused aircraft window either in the cockpit or in the food preparation areas, allowing it to beam information through the window rather than from an externally mounted antenna.

"There are other companies experimenting with a similar synching technology using satellites instead of WiMAX," said Sanderson. "The disadvantage there, besides having to pay for time on the satellites, is that the antenna weights nearly 500 pounds and must be mounted outside the aircraft, where it will create drag that cuts down on fuel efficiency."

WiMAX vs. Wi-Fi
According to Proximetry, Wi-Fi could also be used, but WiMAX has greater range, allowing its ground-based antennas to be located at the edge of airport grounds. Furthermore, WiMAX handles multipath interference better and has faster upload speeds.

"Others are trying to do same thing with Wi-Fi, but we couldn't get reliable download times with Wi-Fi, plus we had conflicts with local users of Wi-Fi and with the airport authorities that control the areas around the terminals," said Sanderson, "[w]hereas with WiMAX, we can mount our ground-based base stations in airlines' buildings or at the edge of the airport grounds, where the cell-phone antennas that surround airports are installed today."

According to Proximetry, an airliner will typically download 500Gbits of data while on the ground. WiMAX's reliability and lack of interference allow GateSync to reliably and accurately predict just how long each upload will take.

"Unlike [with] Wi-Fi, which you have to share with other users, when delivering content with WiMAX, we can very accurately and reliably predict each upload time," said Sanderson.

GateSync is currently at the prototype stage; ongoing testing is underway at several U.S. airports. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certification for the radio equipment is expected by the end of 2008.

- R. Colin Johnson
EE Times

Time Out For Time Management‏

by David A. Utter

A variety of tasks confront the small business owner each day. Addressing the most urgent and important ones may mean the difference between success and failure.

The worst part of time management is watching someone who operates a business you like run it into the ground with inattentiveness. We witnessed that not far from the lead-lined writing room of SmallBusinessNewz, where a franchise of a certain casual dinner chain featuring chicken, meatloaf, and other market items navigated itself straight into the pavement.

7 pm, it turned out, wasn't a good time to tell customers they were out of food. Especially when they did this on a consistent basis with a laissez-faire attitude.

Sad to see them go, but poor management doomed the place. We don't know the exact causes, but we're confident time management skills did not figure prominently in its operation.

Newsday talked about this recently, citing a nice quote in the process:

"Many people concentrate on ant stomping when they should concentrate on elephant hunting," explains Peter Turla, president of The National Management Institute, a time-management consulting company in Flower Mound, Texas. "When you focus on stomping ants, you confuse activity with accomplishment. You're going for the small, insignificant tasks that are easy to do."

Other than recommending bigger shoes for the elephant stomping, we have a simple suggestion for figuring out which tasks need immediate attention. It requires a piece of paper, a large square drawn on it and divided into four equal sections, and a little labeling.

The top row should be marked Urgent, the bottom Non-urgent. For the columns, the left one should be marked Important, the right one as Non-important.

Urgent indicates timeliness, while Importance signifies how essential it is to the running of the business. The top-left quadrant becomes the Urgent/Important section, the bottom-right turns into Non-urgent/Non-important.

Then it's a matter of organizing tasks into these boxes. Our ill-fated restaurateur should have placed ordering supplies to make those home cooked meals into the Urgent/Important box. Things that need to be done quickly, but aren't on an immediate deadline, go into Urgent/Non-important.

Tasks that need to be done, but not ahead of other ones, may be categorized as Non-urgent/Important. It's the place to look after Urgent/Important items have been cleared away, and Urgent/Non-important ones rechecked for timeliness.

Important items always take priority, with urgency the determining factor for the order in which they are checked. As new items arrive, they go into one of the quadrants. After the important items have been taken care of, one should be in a good position to address the others.

Each morning, the boxes get rechecked, with items added, shifted, or removed as necessary. Urgent/Important items receive first priority. Other people and situations will vie for that attention. Be ruthless; say no to the non-urgent requests and put them in the quadrant where they belong.

Pretty soon, you will be busy, but not hopelessly juggling deadlines and harming your business. Organization can be very rewarding.

About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz covering technology and business. Follow me on Twitter, and you can reach me via email at dutter @ ientry dot com

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Weak memory segment drags chip market

Surprising weakness in the memory chip market in Q4 took the wind out of the sails of the global semiconductor market, causing growth in 2007 to fall short of expectations, according to iSuppli Corp.
Revenues of the global chip market grew by only 3.3 percent in 2007, based on the results from iSuppli's final 2007 chip market share data. In a preliminary estimate released in November, iSuppli predicted the global chip market would grow by 4.1 percent in 2007.

DRAM revenue fell by 19.1 percent in Q4, down from Q3. This compares to iSuppli's earlier forecast of a 4.7 percent decline. Meanwhile, NAND flash revenue declined by 3.9 percent in the same quarter, well below iSuppli's previous forecast of 3 percent growth. This caused memory chip revenue in Q4 to decline by 11 percent sequentially, down from iSuppli's prediction of 1.2 percent growth in overall memory chip revenue.

The previous growth estimates presented by iSuppli were heavily influenced by the Q4 revenue guidance presented by semiconductor suppliers in their communications with the investment community in October and November. This poor performance in the memory market was significantly below industry expectations for Q4.

"This was a complete role reversal for memory semiconductors compared to 2006," said Dale Ford, senior vice president, market intelligence, for iSuppli. "During the second half of 2006, memory IC revenues helped to prop up the growth of the overall semiconductor industry. In 2007, the poor results for memory chips restrained overall market growth. If memory were excluded from the revenue total, the semiconductor market would have grown by 2.4 percent in Q4. However, due to the influence of the weak memory market, total semiconductor market revenues fell by 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter."

Memory divergence
Weak market conditions had a major impact on most memory suppliers in 2007, including Nanya Technology and Qimonda, which saw their memory IC revenues fall by 32.4 percent and 26 percent, respectively, for the year.

Leading memory chip supplier, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, experienced a decline of 3.3 percent in its memory semiconductor revenue in 2007—contributing to a 0.8 percent decline in total chip revenue for the year.

However, there were some exceptions to the weak conditions in the memory segment. Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Toshiba Corp. and Elpida Memory Inc. achieved memory-chip revenue growth of 15, 14.5 and 8.8 percent respectively in 2007.

Table 1 presents iSuppli's final rankings for the world's Top 25 semiconductor suppliers in 2007.

Semiconductor standouts
Outside of the memory segment, several companies and product categories posted impressive performances. Infineon Technologies AG in 2007 jumped to the world's No. 9 ranking among global semiconductor suppliers, up from 15th in 2006. During 2007, Infineon acquired Texas Instruments Inc.'s DSL Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) chip business and its wireless baseband semiconductor unit, adding a boost to its revenue. Infineon had fallen out of the Top 10 ranking in 2006 after it split out its memory unit to form Qimonda.

Infineon in 2007 returned to the Top 10 rankings with a revenue rise of 21.1 percent compared to 2006 due a combination of organic expansion and new revenues from its acquisitions. Sony Corp. achieved growth of 55.5 percent in 2007, propelling it to No. 8 in the global rankings, up from No. 14 in 2006. However, it must be noted that this growth was driven by business within Sony. Key to this growth was demand for chips for Sony's own PlayStation 3 (PS3) video game console.

iSuppli's final rankings for the world's Top 25 semiconductor suppliers in 2007.

Toshiba also benefited from supplying chips for the PS3 as well as its success in NAND flash memory. The Japan semiconductor firm attained the third highest revenue growth among the Top 10 suppliers in 2007, up 20.2 percent from 2006. This has positioned Toshiba to vie with Texas Instruments for the third rank in 2008.

Fabless is fabulous
Except Sony, it was two U.S. fabless semiconductor supplier—Qualcomm Inc. and nVidia Corp.—that led the growth among the Top 25 chip companies during 2007.

Qualcomm's revenues grew by 24.1 percent as it moved up three positions in the rankings to reach 13th place. For the first time, a position in the Top 10 is within reach of a fabless semiconductor supplier. nVidia achieved revenue growth of 34.4 percent and leaped from No. 25 to No. 20 in the rankings. nVidia's revenues also received an additional boost from its acquisition of PortalPlayer during 2007.

Big get bigger
Overall, the top 25 semiconductor suppliers significantly outperformed the combined performance of companies ranked lower than them in 2007. The Top 25 as a group achieved revenue growth of 4.5 percent in 2007 while the combined growth of all other semiconductor suppliers was only 0.8 percent.

Other notable developments in the 2007 semiconductor market included:

Logic application specific ICs (ASSPs and ASICs) enjoyed the strongest performance of all semiconductor segments with growth of 12.9 percent. Sony and Toshiba were the key drivers of growth in this segment due to their sales of semiconductors for the PS3. Among the Top 10 suppliers in this market, nVidia also achieved an outstanding year.

Other product categories that enjoyed above-average revenue growth in 2007 were optical semiconductors, with a 7.4 percent rise and sensors and actuators with a 7.3 percent expansion. Discrete semiconductors even managed growth of 4.2 percent.

In the microcomponent category, Intel Corp. enjoyed a return to healthy growth in its microprocessor revenue, with an 8 percent rise in 2007. This growth came at the expense of Advanced Micro Devices Inc., which saw a significant decline in its microprocessor revenues. Overall, microprocessor revenue grew by 2.1 percent in 2007.

Global revenue growth for analog ICs amounted to 2.9 percent in 2007. Among the Top 10 suppliers of analog ICs, Qualcomm and Infineon delivered notably strong revenue growth with increases of greater than 20 percent for the year.

Among applications for semiconductors, automotive electronics drove the highest growth opportunities in 2007 with 11.2 percent growth. Regionally, Asia Pacific accounted for the highest regional growth as it expanded by 6.6 percent in 2007.

Nokia Siemens commits to renewable energy use

In growth markets where mobile networks are expanding into rural areas, advanced infrastructure such as a power grid is not always reliable or readily available and base station sites need to run autonomously. A sustainable alternative is to use renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Traditionally, the energy used to operate these sites has come from diesel generators that not only create CO2 and other harmful emissions, but also require regular refuelling and skilled maintenance work, which leads to additional travel and maintenance costs for the operator. Most importantly, the cost of diesel is high and is expected to rise in the future.

"A sustainable alternative to power remote base station sites is to use renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. By 2011, our first choice to power these sites will be renewable energy," said Anne Larilahti, head of environmentally sustainable business, Nokia Siemens Networks, in a speech given in the Green Forum industry event in Beijing, China.

Nokia Siemens' autonomous sites can be configured to best suit the environment of the site. In the sunniest parts of the world, photovoltaic cells can be used to convert sunlight to energy and provide the electricity needed to operate the site, and often solar panels are complemented with wind turbines.

"Solar and wind technologies are mature, they have a long life time, their operational cost is almost nonexistent and the capital expenditure required is decreasing. The lowering investment cost and the increasing prices of fossil fuels work together to improve the business case of utilizing renewable energy sources" added Larilahti.

"This is good news for telecom operators in China that are looking for ways to manage their long term costs," said David Ho, chairman of Nokia Siemens, Greater China region. As China's government moves ahead with plans to increase its renewable energy supply and focus on energy reduction technologies, Nokia Siemens Networks' wind and solar solutions will help to power the increasing demands in the telecommunications industry. Not only will this result in cost and energy savings for operators, but it will contribute to a greener environment for all."

Wind, solar powers
The conditions of each site are studied in order to decide on the optimal configuration of solar panels, wind turbines or hybrid combinations. With its network planning Nokia Siemens finds the optimal solution for each site. Sophisticated network design takes into account local solar and wind conditions, site landscape and other factors, to create radio access networks that need minimal external support.

Wind and solar powered sites need minimal maintenance and they are also relatively easy and inexpensive to install. Renewable power sources are an excellent choice for many emerging markets, because they contribute to the low total cost of ownership that is vital for providing affordable communications services to subscribers. With increasing oil prices, payback times on the investment to hybrid solar-wind powered base station sites are continuously decreasing. Considering capital expenditure and operational cost, an autonomous site powered by renewable energy sources pays off after two to four years in a good sunny and/or windy location.

Alternative sources
Nokia Siemens its parent companies has been working on alternative energy sources since 1981. The company is increasingly installing sites that are run by renewable energy. Currently the base station sites running on renewable energy sources have been installed to approximately 30 countries.

Besides finding new, more environmentally friendly ways of generating energy such as deploying renewable power sources, it is critical to pay attention to reducing energy consumption overall. Most of the energy in a typical telecommunication network is consumed by base stations in mobile networks. Energy efficiency of Nokia Siemens base station products plays a key role in the use of renewable energy sources for powering base stations. Combining high efficiency base station technology with renewable energy sources, Nokia Siemens offers a solution that matches to the local site conditions.

Advanced mobile and fixed communication technology can play a significant role in creating a sustainable future by reducing adverse environmental impacts while at the same time increasing opportunities for economic welfare and growth. Nokia Siemens aims to connect the world in a way that creates a net positive impact to the environment and society by maximizing the benefits telecommunications can bring to people and businesses, while at the same time minimizing the environmental footprint of its own products and operations.

Three Internet Careers That Soon Won't Exist

by Steve Rubel

Earlier this year the New York Times detailed how careers in medicine and law - formerly bankable lifetime gigs - have lost their luster. College grads instead are pouring their resources into trying to create (or join) the next Facebook or MySpace. Maybe it's time to rethink those plans. Digital is going to become part of almost everyone's job.

After climbing to the stratosphere, jobs in Web 2.0 are way off their peak. The following chart shows a steep decline in listings that mention social networking, Web 2.0, Ajax and blogs. Naturally, the macroeconomic climate has a lot to do with this. However, when you look at other jobs that are historically sensitive - such as shipping, advertising or public relations - the slide isn't as dramatic. This (arguably) indicates that perhaps there's still a lot of air in the Internet specialist job market.

The web has finally become the dominant marketing and media platform and where everyone is largely focusing their resources. It's "the new normal." To me, this means that there will be less of a need for digital specialists across many industries. Some of these jobs won't exist in their current form within a couple of years. They will be integrated into broader roles. Everyone will be expected to know how to navigate the online landscape if they want to have a thriving career.

Here are three such jobs that will soon be integrated into other roles...

Social Media Consultant, Social Media Manager, etc.

Things don't fit into tidy little boxes they way they used to. My friend Dave Armano wisely calls this the Fuzzy Tail. He does a good job reminding us of specialist jobs that were big once - like blacksmithing - and are now no more.

On that note, let's take a look at social media. It doesn't have hard edges. For example, is a site like Engadget social media or just media? The New York Times has dozens of blogs. Does that mean it's no longer media? Beats me. Corporate HR will have an even harder time discerning.

This naturally leads to the next question - who should "manage" these sites? Is it the social media specialist or someone in PR with specific vertical sector expertise who also gets digital? My strong feeling is that it's the latter. (Then again, I work for a big PR firm so I should advise you to take this with a grain of salt.)

Net I believe that hiring someone just to "manage" social media is a luxury that companies will integrate into broader marketing communication roles.

Internet Advertising Sales, Online Advertising Sales, etc.

There's no doubt that the Internet is the future of advertising. Last week Advertising Age even dedicated its entire issue to digital marketing. Their coverage included a big section on careers.

Despite the recession (if we're in one), online ad sales jobs continue to climb . However, soon all advertising will be managed via digital technology and platforms, even if they end up running in terrestrial media. This means it will become very difficult to discern selling digital ads from just plain old ads. Clients will want to manage and measure their integrated campaigns through a single point of contact or channel and figure out how offline/online work together.

Just as onlne/print newsrooms have been integrated, so will ad sales. This means that media companies will want people who are cross-trained and thus the need for "online sales" specialists as they are known now will wane.

Digital Talent Agents

During the AdAge Digital Conference last week, a Digital Agent with a major talent agency talked about how they have a group of people who crawl the web in search of undiscovered musicians, artists, etc. These agents then pair promising amateurs with Hollywood or branded entertainment projects. I last wrote about this three years ago. Then it was emerging business. Now, however, it is becoming the norm.

Just as with social media consultants and online ad sales, the need for such specialists will soon fade. Every agent will need to know how to identify and talent from the web. The line between digital and traditional will be obliterated as more amateurs recognize that they can market themselves using the web and will forgo going on auditions.

Next up I will cover three emerging digital career tracks that I think will be hot in the years ahead; jobs that at least I think will have staying power and may remain specialist gigs.

TMSC unveils 40nm 'half-node' step to 32nm

The semiconductor industry's first 40nm foundry process has been unveiled by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The process is an interim, "half-node" step toward the 32nm process node, which TSMC expects to ramp starting late next year.
Even as the world's largest silicon foundry pushes the envelope, it is quietly changing its leading-edge process strategy, as its customers—squeezed by soaring IC design and manufacturing costs—slow their migration to next-generation foundry processes.

The trend has been seen across the industry, with negative implications for foundry margins and growth.

Traditionally, TSMC would install and ramp significant capacity for each successive process node. But last year, during the shift to 45nm, TSMC discovered that the anticipated "demand for leading-edge capacity was not there," said Jim Hines, an analyst with Gartner Inc. Foundry customers are "not migrating to the advanced nodes as fast as before."

Playing safe
To lessen its risk, TSMC now ramps a "minimum" amount of leading-edge capacity, sizing up demand for a given process node before jumping in with both feet, Hines said.

That prudent strategy helps TSMC sustain its envious margins, but it also gives the appearance that foundries are reluctant to invest in leading-edge capacity. Indeed, at a recent event, G. Dan Hutcheson, CEO of VLSI Research Inc. observed that foundry providers "have fallen off Moore's Law"; they are "backing away from aggressive scaling."

The foundry model is far from broken, but the business is rapidly changing. During the fabless boom of the 1990s, foundry providers emerged and grew at an astonishing rate. At the time, the foundries were at least two to three technology nodes behind the leading IDMs. But the outsourcing specialists were also able to obtain capital at competitive rates.

Until recently, the leading-edge foundries—Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing, TSMC, United Microelectronics Corp. and, to a degree, IBM—built fab capacity at brisk rates during both upturns and downturns. That strategy, not surprisingly, resulted in extreme oversupply/undersupply cycles within the sector.

Today, most foundries push their processes to the leading edge but adhere to a more-conservative ramp schedule that builds out capacity in line with tangible demand. The exception to the rule appears to be China's Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., which continues to expand capacity despite the dip in the market.

"I think the foundry guys have the right strategy. They are saying: 'Look, it's not all about growth; it's about profitability.' So they are going to build more to demand than forecast," said Tom Caulfield, executive VP for sales, marketing and customer service at chip-equipment supplier Novellus Systems Inc.

Runaway costs
Foundries and IDMs are also seeing another ominous trend: IC design, photomask and process costs continue to soar with each successive technology node. But foundries must continue to funnel R&D dollars into such emerging technologies as high-k dielectrics and metal gates.

On the bright side, even as leading-edge customers prove slower on the uptake for next-node processes, foundry providers continue to see surprisingly high demand for older, lower-cost process technologies at their 200mm fabs.

TSMC and its competitors have recognized the bifurcation of the customer base and have acted accordingly. Some observers nonetheless wonder whether the foundries will prove nimble enough to hit the market with the right processes when the next upswing inevitably occurs.

TSMC, for its part, recently split its operations into two groups, respectively supporting its leading- and trailing-edge technology efforts: the Advanced Technology Business Organization and the Mainstream Technology Business Organization.

For its advanced-technology customers, TSMC will continue to push the process envelope. The company unveiled its 45nm process in 2007 and has recently tipped details about its 32nm technology. But the latter process is not slated to roll until the latter part of 2009. Hence the new 40nm process, which will serve leading-edge requirements in the interim.

Advanced offerings
The offering is in fact two processes: 40G, a general-purpose process, and 40LP, for low-power requirements. The SRAM cell size for the technology is said to be the smallest in the industry, at 0.242µm². The 40nm technology is said to offer 2.35 times the gate density of TSMC's 65nm process. The transition from 45nm to 40nm low-power technology reduces power scaling by up to 15 percent, TSMC said.

The foundry developed 40LP for leakage-sensitive applications such as wireless and portable devices. Its 40G variant targets performance applications such as processors, graphic processing units, game console ICs, networking and FPGA designs.

"Our design flow can take a design started at 45nm and target it toward the advantages of 40nm," said John Wei, senior director of advanced technology marketing at TSMC. "A lot of TSMC development work has gone into ensuring that this transition is transparent."

The 40nm process employs 193nm immersion lithography and ultralow-k material. The logic family includes a low-power, triple-gate oxide (LPG) option to support high-performance wireless and portable applications. Both the G and the LP processes offer multiple-Vt core devices and 1.8V/2.5V I/O options to meet different product requirements.

TSMC will offer a multiproject wafer program at the 40nm half-node to reduce costs. The processes support a range of third-party intellectual property and EDA tools as well as TSMC's own IP. First wafers are expected in Q2 08.

This is not the foundry's first half-node process step. It released its 65nm process in 2006 and followed up with a 55nm half-node entry before rolling its 45nm technology last year.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

Google pitches 'white space' for wireless Internet

After losing in the latest in the 700MHz auction, Google Inc. has laid out plans to use TV "white space"—unlicensed and unused airwaves"—to provide wireless Internet, according to an Associated Press report.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Google urged the government to open up the white space for unlicensed use to enable more widespread, affordable Internet access over the airwaves.

Google has already pointed out that the vast majority of viable spectrum in the United States goes unused or is grossly underutilized, Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media lawyer, wrote in the letter. He added that there is no benefit to allowing this spectrum to lie fallow unlike other natural resources.

The search engine giant said that the white space, located between hannels 2 and 51 on TV sets that aren't hooked up to satellite or cable services, offer a chance to provide ubiquitous wireless broadband access in the United States.

Whitt added that opening up the spectrum would allow much-needed competition to broadband service providers.

Broadcast interference
TV broadcasters, however, are expected to the oppose the use of white space, fearing it would cause interference with TV programming and could even cause problems with the transition from analog to digital broadcasting signals next year. Addressing the matter, Google pressed the FCC to adopt a series of overlapping technologies, including spectrum sensing, designed to prevent signals from interfering with each other.

According to Whitt, the company does not expect any changes to the status quo until after the shift from analog to digital broadcasting in February 2009. Whitt said consumer devices compatible with white space spectrum could be out in the market as early as late 2009.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Smartphones Good For Small Businesses

By Doug Caverly

Practical, convenient technology

If you haven't yet embraced the smartphone phenomenon, now might be a good time to do so. Statistics indicate that they're becoming more popular for everyday uses, and in the business world, as well.

Steve Cooper reports, "A recent study from In-Stat found that 8 percent of regular business travelers have ditched their land lines and rely solely on their mobile phones." This makes good sense - mobile phones can travel, land lines can't, and mobile phones charge quickly enough that there should be few concerns about staying available.

Cooper continues, "Networking via smartphone is also bringing people together. Established networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Friendster are joining the mobile social network." So you can "friend" people immediately after meeting them, rather than try to remember their contact info until the next time a computer is nearby.

Add in the basic requirement of having some sort of mobile phone, and there's little reason not to upgrade to a proper smartphone. RIM, Apple, and Google, in particular, are making this a more attractive option on an almost monthly basis.

Just be careful of the data plans, as signing up for too generous or too tight a service agreement is unwise.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Yahoo pays price for Google good deed

By Elise Ackerman and Pete Carey
San Jose Mercury News

Almost eight years ago, Yahoo decided to lend a little startup a helping hand, featuring its search technology on the Yahoo home page and giving it money at a critical juncture.

In cutthroat Silicon Valley, no good deed goes unpunished.

The startup was Google, and Yahoo's generosity helped launch the most formidable competitor it had ever encountered. Now facing a takeover attempt by Microsoft, Yahoo is coming to terms with the punishing consequences of its complex relationship with Google, including a futile attempt to copy Google's extraordinarily profitable advertising model at significant cost to Yahoo's own business.

Long before the world learned that Google had turned the Internet into an amazing money-minting machine, Yahoo knew.

When Google was still a private company, it sent its financial statements to Yahoo's headquarters in Sunnyvale like clockwork. Google had to because Yahoo was one of its earliest investors.

The statements showed the incredible growth of Google's search advertising business, with sales more than doubling from quarter to quarter.

But Yahoo executives didn't focus on the money; they were interested in how much traffic was being driven by search, recalled Ellen Siminoff, an executive who joined Yahoo in 1996.

In 2000, Yahoo agreed to use and promote Google, which it touted as "the best search engine on the Internet." Google co-founder Larry Page described the pact as a "major milestone."

The following year, Yahoo was even more generous, paying Google $7.2 million for its services (Google in turn paid Yahoo $1.1 million for promotional help). Google desperately needed the money, which helped push it into the black for the entire year.

Yet Yahoo was hardly flush with cash. After two years of profit, Yahoo reported an annual loss of $93 million in 2001. The value of its stock had collapsed from $118.75 a share in January 2000 to $4.05 in September 2001.

Meanwhile, Yahoo's promotional push was having an effect on Google.

"When we were turning the business around in 2001, Google was already becoming the ascendant player in Europe, especially in the U.K., which is one of the most important advertising markets," recalled L. Jasmine Kim, a former Yahoo vice president for global marketing and sales development.

The international team tried to telegraph their concern to Sunnyvale, Kim recalled.

"In hindsight, it is easy to say we should have seen it as we did discuss our concerns, but technology moves at the speed of light. The game changed."

Yahoo management did not respond to questions about the company's relationship to Google.

The tech industry's giants — like Microsoft, Intel and Oracle — are famous for ruthlessly dealing with competitors. Not Yahoo.

In 2002, Yahoo paid Google $13.2 million, equivalent to more than a quarter of Yahoo's annual profit of $43 million. The sum, however, meant less to Google, which had blown past its benefactor with an annual profit of about $100 million.

But the price of coddling Google would be much higher, as Yahoo soon discovered.

In May 2001, Yahoo replaced Chief Executive Tim Koogle, a folksy, guitar-playing engineer, with Terry Semel, a veteran Hollywood deal maker who had rarely used e-mail.

Semel may not have been a technology guru but he knew search would be key to Yahoo's success.

He also realized Yahoo had a big problem: It had neither its own search technology nor the software for handling search advertising.

Semel's first move: He struck a deal with Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture Systems to provide ads for Yahoo's search results. Then he tried to buy Google.

After those talks fizzled in 2002, Semel acquired Inktomi, a search engine, for $235 million in December 2002. Seven months later he bought Overture for $1.6 billion.

The deals gave Yahoo a huge boost. In 2004, revenue doubled and profit more than tripled. Yahoo's stock vaulted from $16.10 a share on the day the Overture deal was announced on July 14, 2003, to $37.68 at the end of 2004.

In early 2005, when both companies reported their 2004 earnings, it seemed like Yahoo and Google might even be neck and neck.

While Google had revved its profit engine harder — for an increase of 276 percent compared with Yahoo's 252 percent — Yahoo boasted a larger increase in sales, 119 percent to Google's 113 percent.

"What's even more important than exceeding any one of our financial targets, however, is the way in which we've achieved them, and they do flow from a robust foundation," Chief Financial Officer Sue Decker told analysts in January 2005.

Semel and Decker told Wall Street that Yahoo was in a better position than Google because it sold both search advertising, ads triggered by search queries, and display advertising, image-based ads that appear as banners or other graphical elements on a Web page.

The executives explained that Yahoo could cross-sell the two kinds of advertising and be a one-stop shop for the world's biggest brands.

"It became clear over the course of a year that there wasn't anything to that," said Mark Mahaney, an analyst with Citigroup.

It turned out Yahoo's happy ending was more Hollywood than reality.

While Yahoo's business had certainly improved, it was nowhere near catching Google.

Yahoo's revenues in 2004 had doubled largely as a result of the acquisition of Overture. And its profit that year was swollen by the sale of $400 million of Google stock.

Yahoo sold its remaining stake in Google, roughly 4.2 million shares, the following year for nearly $1 billion, again boosting its profit.

Executives continued to tout Yahoo's financial performance. "I am very proud of the remarkable growth and progress Yahoo has demonstrated throughout this past year," Semel said on Jan. 17, 2006.

But shares fell 13 percent the next day as investors responded to the news that core profit was a penny less than analysts had expected.

And the rate of sales growth fell by more than 60 percent, exposing the isolated bump Yahoo's sales had received from buying Overture.

During the next two years, Yahoo's stock plunged an additional 45 percent. On Jan. 31, the day before Microsoft made its bid, Yahoo traded around $19 a share, the same level it traded at in fall 2003.

In 2007, Yahoo introduced new software that boosted the amount of money it made from search advertising. Investors had waited years for the project known as "Panama" to be completed. The technology was seen as key to Yahoo regaining competitiveness.

But Panama didn't come close to closing the gap with Google. Yahoo's sales that year were almost $7 billion, compared with $16.6 billion for Google.

Worse, Yahoo said it expected to grow only about 10 percent the following year. (Google doesn't forecast future growth; however, its revenue increased 57 percent in 2007.)

"We are disappointed with guidance and don't expect investors to have confidence in management's investment decisions," Rob Sanderson of American Technology Research wrote in a note Jan. 30.

Unable to compete with Google in search advertising, Yahoo also appeared to be losing its edge in display advertising, where it was No. 1.

In September 2006, Decker and Semel warned they were seeing weakness in display advertising related to financial services and cars. "We think it is kind of early to tell whether this is a sign of anything broader," Decker cautioned.

In fact, it was the beginning of a long slide. Analyst Doug Anmuth, of Lehman Brothers, estimates that the growth of Yahoo's display business dropped by half, from 33 percent in 2006 to 16.5 percent in 2007.

The main cause of the decline was increased competition, especially from social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

However, plenty of former Yahoos also blamed top management in Sunnyvale.

"They were concentrated on two things: technology and technology," said Jerry Shereshewsky, a senior Yahoo marketing executive who left the company last summer and is now CEO of

"Yahoo as a company never really understood they were first and foremost in the media business supported almost wholly by advertising."

Former employees from other divisions also faulted management as indecisive, said more than a dozen who asked not to be quoted by name because it might hurt future business opportunities.

Other complaints: Upper management was plagued by cronyism. Even when new ideas got a green light, the projects were starved of resources. There were too many people with inflated titles, too many business units and too little cooperation among them.

Among the missed opportunities, former employees said, was a chance to buy Facebook when Mark Zuckerberg was still enrolled in Harvard and open to a deal.

Around the same time, business-development people at Yahoo unsuccessfully tried to stir up interest in MySpace. But executives wanted major deals that would "move the needle," said a former employee. MySpace was too small.

In 2006, an effort to buy YouTube foundered when Yahoo insisted on a clause in the contract that gave Yahoo an out if the video-sharing site was sued. Google agreed to remove the clause and got YouTube.

By 2007 the social-networking sites would be big enough to challenge Yahoo for display advertising. According to industry estimates, MySpace ranked second only to Yahoo in revenue from display advertising and page views.

And YouTube was the Web's undisputed top video destination, despite Yahoo's efforts to compete.

Google recently announced its acquisition of DoubleClick, which inserts primarily display advertising on Web pages owned by major publishers.

"At best, it's alarming for Yahoo," said Jim Barnett, chief executive of Turn, which provides software for optimizing display advertising. "Google already has the dominant position in search, and this puts Google in a very advantageous market position to take share in display."

Here, too, Yahoo missed an opportunity. After the dot-com crash in 2000, Yahoo considered developing similar software, but decided against it.

Since November 2006, Yahoo has been working to build software that will serve targeted display advertisements to members of a consortium that now includes more than 600 newspapers.

The software has been expected to provide a major boost to Yahoo and its newspaper partners. But it is still not ready. By the time it is finished, Yahoo could well be a division of Microsoft.

Think before you install

by Tom Krazit

Look, people, it's 2008: You're responsible for what you install on your PC.

The outrage is spewing forth over Apple's move to include Safari 3.1 as part of its Software Update program. The new twist is that Windows users who never had installed Safari are now seeing it pop up in Software Update, where they are accustomed to seeing updates for iTunes and Quicktime, and that's not sitting well with many who inadvertently installed the browser.

Short attention span syndrome strikes again. This practice, of trying to get people to install your software through coy tactics, has been going on for years. All the major IM vendors have tried it at one point or another. Yahoo faced an outrage in 2005 over the fact that its "standard" installation of a Yahoo Instant Messenger application included toolbars and this really obnoxious "live words" thing that directed people to Yahoo Search.

Hell, Sony is actually charging people $50 to prevent software they don't want from being installed on their PCs.

That doesn't mean Apple's move is any less annoying, but it's hardly ground-breaking. And in this case, at least you have options. Apple made Safari 3.1 a standalone update option, so you can choose to uncheck the box next to the title and download just the iTunes updates. The company tells you exactly what you're downloading, and offers a link to its site for more information.

Had Apple bundled Safari with iTunes, the way they bundle Quicktime, I can see where Windows users would have more of a complaint. Being forced to install something you don't want just to get updates for something you do want is not cool. You can download standalone versions of QuickTime or iTunes on Apple's site, but sometimes they appear bundled in Software Update and people don't realize they have other options.

But that's not what's happening with Safari. If you don't want Safari, don't click "install."

It seems that at some point people became conditioned to downloading anything that shows up from an official source, like Microsoft, Apple, AOL, Yahoo, or whoever. Remember, it's your PC; spend your installation capital wisely.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Multicore WLAN switch targets mid-size enterprises

A multicore processor-based wireless LAN (WLAN) switch targeted at mid-sized enterprises has been launched by the Enterprise Mobility business of Motorola Inc. The RFS6000 supports an all-wireless enterprise vision, enabling businesses to build an enterprise WLAN that serves the entire organization from workers in corporate headquarters to manufacturing and distribution plants to remote branch offices.
With the industry's leading installed base of more than 125,000 WLAN switches, Motorola has the market's most thoroughly tested WLAN offering. The addition of the RFS6000 and mesh-enabled adaptive 802.11a/b/g/n access points (APs) gives Motorola the industry's most complete indoor and outdoor WLAN portfolio to enable a truly wireless enterprise.

"We expect more than 75 percent of enterprise end-point devices to be wirelessly connected to the company network within four to five years," says Jack Gold, president of J. Gold Associates. "This will include not only data-centric devices, but voice and collaboration-centric devices as well, many with multiple wireless communication options seamlessly available to the user."

Based on the Wireless Next Generation (Wi-NG) architecture this network-in-a-box solution is the industry's first wireless switch to include the combination of eight high-power PoE ports for 802.11n; a PCIe slot for wireless WAN backhaul 3G/4G services such as EVDO, HSDPA and WiMAX; and a PCI expansion slot for services such as IP PBX. The RFS6000 supports up to 48 802.11a/b/g/n APs and is capable of providing Wi-Fi coverage for up to 2,000 users. The RFS6000 also provides significant cost savings compared to wired Ethernet networks by completely eliminating the need to run separate voice and data cables to each user within the enterprise.

Secure management
The RFS6000 offers enterprise-class security with integrated 802.1x, WPA/WPA2, stateful inspection firewall, VPN, AAA server and NAC support. The wireless switch is also PCI and HIPAA compliance-capable out-of-the-box.

"Mid-size organizations face difficulties in deploying a robust wireless infrastructure that can be managed effectively," continued Gold. "What they need are products that contain many of the features such as backhaul connection redundancy, embedded firewall and VPN, security and management capability of higher end systems targeted at large enterprises, but at a price geared to their needs."

The RFS6000 also offers a high level of network resilience with mesh, adaptive technology and switch clustering capabilities that enable business-critical wireless. RFS6000-based wireless networks can offer end-to-end resilience at a much lower cost than wired equivalents. In addition, wireless networks have the added benefit of enabling applications such as asset tracking, fixed mobile convergence and location-based security to unleash the next level of mobility within the enterprise.

"With the RFS6000, adaptive APs, enterprise mesh and outdoors wireless offerings we are the only company in the industry with a complete portfolio to help enterprises truly realize the vision of a secure and reliable wireless enterprise inside and out," said Sujai Hajela, VP and general manager of Enterprise WLAN, Motorola Enterprise Mobility business.

Voice quality
Use of voice over WLAN is also growing within enterprises with the arrival of Wi-Fi phones and inexpensive VoIP services. The RFS6000 wireless switch supports toll quality voice over WLAN with Quality of Service (QoS) and Wi-Fi Multimedia Extensions and seamless roaming across Layer 3 boundaries both inside and outside helping to ensure superior performance for voice and multimedia applications.

Enterprise WLAN is part of Motorola's portfolio of innovative wireless broadband solutions and services that complement and complete IP networks. Delivering IP coverage to virtually all spaces both indoors and outdoors, the portfolio includes fixed broadband, mesh, broadband over powerline, WiMAX and Enterprise WLAN solutions for private and public networks.

NextWave, Alcatel-Lucent tie up for WiMAX TV

A strategic agreement has been forged between NextWave Wireless Inc. and Alcatel-Lucent for the integration of NextWave's MXtv technology into Alcatel-Lucent's WiMAX portfolio, based on the 802.16e-2005 (Rev-e) standard. The companies also plan to perform a series of interoperability tests with Alcatel-Lucent's commercial WiMAX infrastructure starting Q2 08.
In a separate deal, China communications gear supplier Huawei also said last week it would integrate the MXtv technology into its own WiMAX networking kit.

The MXtv technology has also been integrated into NextWave's low-power, Wave 2-compliant NW2000 series WiMAX subscriber device SoC. The device is currently being integrated into a wide range of devices with some device availability planned for 2H 08.

The technology is based on the TDtv mobile TV platform NextWave gained access to through the acquisition last year of UMTS-TDD kit supplier IP Wireless.

Promised benefits
NextWave says its latest broadcast technology will allow WiMAX operators to deliver rich and personalized multimedia services including mobile TV, interactive media and digital audio. NextWave said that macro-diversity technology is used to improve the broadcast performance over the WiMAX channel.

The offering promises 30fps QVGA and WQVGA content and up to 45 high-quality mobile TV channels in 10MHz with channel switching times below 2s.

Network operators can also dynamically allocate spectrum based on content availability, time of day requirements, user demand and the availability of live events such as sports, concerts, interactive reality shows or emergency broadcasts.

"User demand for mobile broadcast services is rapidly expanding and we believe that the exciting new applications offered through this alliance will provide mobile operators a unique ability to deliver the key differentiating feature of 4G networks," said Allen Salmasi, CEO of NextWave Wireless.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

Will Europe's Big Three merge?

Former STMicroelectronics executive Joseph Borel has proposed for Europe's top three semiconductor companies—NXP Semiconductors, ST, Infineon Technologies AG—to consolidate and form a unified European chip powerhouse.

The 12-page proposal from the former ST executive VP for central R&D has been sent to the French Senate and is being transferred to the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Borel disclosed details of the proposal in an exclusive interview with EE Times Europe. It appears to be based on several dubious assumptions about both the practicality of such a union and its potential ability to compete against the likes of Intel Corp. and Samsung Electronics Inc.

Nonetheless, the concept pitched by Borel—a French engineer who spent 22 years in R&D at ST—is striking in its audacity. The very suggestion of such an arrangement points to a growing disillusionment in Europe with the market positions of the region's biggest electronics companies. Some market watchers contend the chip companies' competitiveness hasn't been sufficiently honed under their current operating structures.

Borel also has precedent on his side: the creation of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV (EADS), the European aerospace corporation formed by the merger in 2000 of Germany's DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG, France's Aérospatiale-Matra and Spain's Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA.

Established to pursue European strategic interests, EADS develops and markets civil and military aircraft, missiles, space rockets, satellites and related systems. EADS unit Airbus SAS has competed effectively against U.S. civil aviation giant Boeing Co.; EADS and U.S.-based partner Northrop Grumman recently beat out Boeing to win a U.S. Air Force contract for modernized refueling tankers.

Borel's argument hinges on the assertion that nanoelectronics R&D and manufacturing are of strategic interest to France and Europe and should not be left to evaporate. He is asking national and European authorities to bring three regional champions together to form a pan-European semiconductor heavyweight with global heft. The ability to compete on the scale of Intel and Samsung would be the commercial bonus; Europe's avoidance of reliance on companies like IBM Corp. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd would be the political side of the coin.

In the red
All three European chip companies have struggled of late. At Infineon, multiyear losses have become the norm. Although the company's revenue continues to rise every year (except for a slight drop in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2007), Infineon has piled up huge losses since fiscal 2005, dragged down by problems at Qimonda, its majority-owned memory business.

In response, Infineon has experimented with various forms of corporate restructurings, including a continuing effort to exit the troubled DRAM market.

NXP, for its part, saw revenue fall to roughly $7.23 billion in 2007, down 7 percent from approximately $7.75 billion in the previous year, although its net loss improved to $773 million from $954 million in 2006.

ST, meanwhile had been consistently profitable for years but lost $477 million in 2007, compared with net income of $782 million in 2006.

ST's relatively better financial performance—coupled with its size ($10 billion in annual revenue) and structural history (it was formed from the union of France's Thomson Semiconducteurs and Italy's Società Generale Semiconduttori Microelettronica [SGS])—forms the kernel of Borel's argument. He notes the involvement of the French and Italian governments in ST's formation.

Borel's plan would merge Infineon, NXP and ST into a single organization to improve efficiency, leverage capital expenditures and R&D, reduce operating costs through process rationalization and improve competitive positioning by eliminating duplication of effort. The company that would emerge from the union would be able to take on the likes of Intel, he contends.

"There is room for investment rationalization and product synergies among the three European independent players, [which] at present address some overlapping parts of the market," he said. "The only way to save [Europe's industry] is to be just behind Intel and to put everyone under the same banner, so as to avoid duplication."

Not everyone is convinced that such a union is the best way forward, however, and some believe the move might even jeopardize the companies' market position if forced through by political leaders.

'Interesting but unrealistic'
Malcolm Penn, CEO at consultancy group Future Horizons called the proposal "an interesting but unrealistic suggestion" that would be unlikely to work "even if there were no political issues."

While Borel's goal may never be realized, his plan sends a clear signal to Infineon, NXP and ST that observers aren't pleased with the results of the multiyear restructurings and market repositioning in which the three companies have separately engaged.

Additionally, the proposal highlights some Westerners' unease about the transfer of operations to emerging tech manufacturing and R&D centers in Asia by top European companies, including wireless market leader Nokia of Finland. Some fear the "asset lite" manufacturing strategies by companies will have negative economic and security implications for the continent.

Hints of these concerns are clearly visible in Borel's 12-page proposal. "I believe in this convergence, which will bring new opportunities to create jobs, save our universities and our research base," Borel said.

Although the problems at Infineon, NXP and ST are troubling for their investors and for the region at large, the idea that Europe is declining as a semiconductor power is less credible. The three companies today rank among the world's top 10 chip manufacturers, and despite huge operational problems, they remain major players in the industry.

Moreover, the rapid technology changes, commoditization and resulting pricing erosion that have devastated margins at these companies did not result from their operating as independent entities—or, for that matter, from their being headquartered in Europe.

Global downtrend
Other chip manufacturers across the globe, regardless of size and location, are similarly feeling the pressure of huge shifts in the industry.

Intel, the market leader Borel cites in his memo, has repeatedly tried in recent years—with limited success—to break into faster-growing IC segments and diversify beyond its bread-and-butter microprocessor business.

Intel microprocessor rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., meanwhile, is on life support, struggling to reenergize its operations and regain profitability despite difficulties keeping pace with technology advances.

Across the Pacific, Japan's once-dominant chip players are in disarray. They have engaged in endless restructurings, pooling of operations, spin-offs of units and even mergers with rival operations to reinvigorate their businesses.

It's not surprising, therefore, that executives at Infineon, NXP and ST don't appear too keen on merging their companies.

Infineon and ST both declined to comment on the proposal, with a representative for ST noting only that the company does not respond to market "speculation."

An NXP spokesman likewise said her company does "not respond to speculation" and called the plan "solely the opinion of Mr. Borel."

The three chip companies today compete in certain market segments—including semiconductors for the automotive, broadband wireless communication sectors—and unwinding their redundant or conflicting operations in those areas would be extremely difficult, said Future Horizons' Penn.

"These are three big companies we are talking about," he said. "If they can't make it happen on their own, if they can't achieve economies of scale, there is no reason to think they can achieve them better together. Any such move would imply major plant closures, and there is an enormous disparity of facilities both technologically and geographically among the three. Closing facilities is not an easy thing to do."

Borel's recommendation glosses over the massive integration problems, management distractions, competitive challenges and market-share erosion the merged company likely would face as it cobbled together competing businesses with widely differing corporate cultures. Despite their European origins, Infineon, NXP and ST aren't identical triplets, and their divergent management strategies could quickly sink any endeavor to unite them under one banner.

Lessons from history
The history of the companies' past collaborations may hold some lessons for the politicians who might latch onto Borel's plan.

ST and NXP had been partners along with Freescale Semiconductor in the Crolles, France's CMOS process technology research and manufacturing alliance, but NXP and Freescale exited the partnership in 2007. ST's latest partner in the Crolles 2 alliance is IBM.

The European company has insisted it still believes "the shared R&D business model contributes to the fast acceleration of semiconductor process technology development."

"We will continue to actively pursue an expansion of our portfolio of alliances to reinforce cooperation in the area of technology development in Crolles 2," ST said in a March regulatory filing.

If business executives in North America looked to engineer a union of the type Borel is proposing, they wouldn't request the government's assistance or even expect political leaders to get involved. That's because the ownership structure of U.S. public corporations differs from those in Europe.

In France, Italy and many other European countries, the government directly or indirectly controls many publicly owned companies. Government influence extends in some cases to the appointment of directors and chairmen.

ST, for instance, is owned in part by the governments of France and Italy through such organizations as France Telecom (which left ST in 2005), Areva, CDP, Finmeccanica and Italy's Ministry of Economy and Finance.

In that context, it made sense for Borel to address his proposal to the French Senate. It was also acceptable and expected that the French Senate would forward the request to Sarkozy, though it's not clear what actions the French President will take.

What is clear, however, is that by focusing public attention on the problems dogging the three leading European semiconductor companies, Borel's memo has lit a fire under the management of Infineon, NXP and ST.

- Anne-Franoise Pel and Bolajo Ojo
EE Times

- Additional reporting by John Walko, Peter Clarke and Christoph Hammerschmidt

Infineon answers VoIP feature in low-cost handsets

Infineon Technologies AG claims it is the first semiconductor supplier to offer VoIP functionality for low-cost mobile phones, enabling operators to offer fixed-mobile convergence by integrating Wi-Fi on its mobile phone platform. According to Infineon, the solution, the XMM 1013, will help reduce BOM cost for Wi-Fi-enabled cellphones by up to 50 percent compared to existing solutions. The XMM 1013 integrates Infineon's single-chip X-GOLD 101 cellular solution and Atheros' single-chip AR6101 ROCm VoIP solution.
"While many people want to make inexpensive VoIP phone calls at home and on-the-go (or while travelling), there is a growing demand for easy-to-use handsets with accessibility to GSM mobile networks as well as Wi-Fi hotspots", said Weng Kuan Tan, vice president and general manager of the entry phone business unit at Infineon's communication solutions business group. "Our field proven and best-selling low-cost solution paired with Atheros' wireless VoIP system enables attractive price points for new, dual-mode handsets that offer users savings through VoIP calls at any open access point."

The XMM 1013 platform is sampling to handset manufacturers now and volume production starts in Q2 08.

Coming soon: Intel's six-core chips‏

Pat Gelsinger, Intel Corp.'s digital enterprise group general manager, tipped the press last week about a host of upcoming processors, including Tukwila, Dunnington and Nehalem.
With the set slides available on the Intel Website, Gelsinger discussed servers based on Intel's six-core Dunnington processor and Tukwila processor.

It is not clear from Gelsinger's slides what processor core Tukwila is based on, but the slide states that it is a quad-core device with a 30Mbyte cache and two billion transistors. It will also include a QuickPath interconnect (QPI), Intel's replacement for the front-side bus. The Tukwila is expected to provide more than twice the performance of a dual-core Itanium processor with the number 9100. However, Gelsinger's presentation did not show the process technology node or the clock frequency of either for comparison.

Gelsinger provided more information about Dunnington but did not disclose the maximum clock frequency. The six-core Dunnington is being implemented using 1.9 billion transistors in 45nm CMOS process technology, has a 16Mbyte level-three cache memory and is due to become available in the 2H 08, he said.

Nehalem is a micro-architecture which is intended to support the design of processors on 45nm process technology and below, according to the presentation but was not made clear whether Nehalem is the name of the core processor or the architecture, or both. Again in the presentation Gelsinger said nothing about clock frequency, which is fundamental to judging performance.

Nehalem-style processors will be scalable from two to eight cores, Gelsinger said in his presentation. It will support multithreading, resulting in 4 to 16 thread capability. Nehalem will deliver four times the memory bandwidth compared to the Intel Xeon processor-based systems. With up to 8Mbytes of level-3 cache, QPI capable of transmitting data at up to 25.6GBps, the Nehalem chips will eventually scale from notebooks to high-performance servers.

Visual computing
Gelsinger also put up slides about visual computing arguing that realistic graphics and high-definition video are a good use of multiprocessor architectures and will do well when accompanied by developer tools. He then introduced the Larrabee architecture for visual computing.

Gelsinger further discussed Intel's advanced vector extensions, which are expected to increase performance in floating point, media, and processor intensive software. He said the company would make the detailed specification public in April at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai and that the instructions will be implemented in the microarchitecture codenamed "Sandy Bridge" in the 2010 timeframe.

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Long way to go for Brazil's chip biz?

The birth of the Brazilian semiconductor industry has been protracted and difficult, but even as the infant takes its first steps, it is facing an uphill battle.
Critics see outdated technology, an unclear business model and a domestic market too small to create a competitive chip industry. And the training that Brazilian engineers need to approach industry best practices just serves to expose them to overseas opportunities. Nevertheless, against all odds, Brazil's semiconductor industry is gaining momentum.

Final additions
The finishing touches are being added to the semiconductor clean room of Ceitec, Brazil's first semiconductor front-end manufacturing line. Ceitec's activities are part of a huge effort by the Brazilian government to modernize the nation's economy. Since President Inacio Lula da Silva took office in 2003, the Brazilian government has consistently invested in information technology. Some $150 million has been invested in Ceitec (Excellence Center of Advanced Electronics Technology) in the southern city of Porto Alegre. And last December, the group licensed a 0.6µm manufacturing technology from X-Fab Semiconductor Foundries AG.

"Our equipment can handle 0.35µm and in about three years, we will be able to move to 0.18µm," said Ceitec president Sergio Dias.

The chips produced are intended to serve the local market, at least initially, and target automation, machinery and automotive industry applications. But while there is growing demand for consumer and commercial applications in the domestic Brazilian market, industry observers said the country won't be able to produce the chips required for these products for the foreseeable future.

Skeptics abound?
Many are skeptical about Brazil's ability to find a place in the global chip economy in the near term. "There are a couple of caveats," said Alfonos Velosa, a research director for semiconductors with Gartner. "I am not going to say they won't succeed, but it will take time until they will become competitive on an international scale."

Brazil is trying to ramp up its capabilities, Velosa said, but the technology it uses is way behind the leading edge. "The facilities necessary to build state-of-the-art semiconductors are very expensive, and they require a complex infrastructure that is difficult to put on a greenfield site."

Others share the skepticism. Some doubt that Brazil will ever be able to compete on the manufacturing side with the Far East. Though Brazil is considered a low-wage country, "you always will find someone who does it for less money," said the Brazilian manager of a foreign semiconductor company, who requested anonymity. He also doubts that local demand is strong enough to justify a modern manufacturing line.

"To utilize a Brazilian manufacturing line, they would have to export at least 40 to 60 percent of their capacity," he said. This would be difficult because of adverse currency conditions and, even more so, because Brazil does not have the critical mass to benefit from economies of scale.

Chip design rules
"Chip design is much more important than manufacturing. The innovation is in the design," said Thomas Hinderling, CEO of Centre Suisse d'Electronique et de Microelectronique (CSEM). Swiss-based CSEM operates an Innovation Center in Belo Horizonte, which, starting in 2009, will design MEMS and other semiconductors for automotive, aerospace and medical applications. "If you look 30 or 50 years into the future, you certainly won't find much semiconductor production in Europe, but you will still find chip design."

The same is true for Brazil, he said. The type of production Ceitec is planning will only make sense if the government erects tariff walls to protect the local market. "But this can only be a temporary measure; Brazil will have to open its trade," Hinderling said.

Hinderling is not alone in advocating that Brazil pursue design over manufacturing. Over the past two years, the Brazilian government has initiated and funded eight design centers across the nation. It plans to increase that number to 15. Eventually, all the state-supported design houses will become commercial companies—if they can attract enough trained experts.

Obstacles to conquer
Brazil's labor market for design engineers is another stumbling block in the way of its progress. While software engineers are readily available, the industry lacks semiconductor design and manufacturing experts. Ceitec, for instance, is estimated to have hired more than 50 percent of the country's specialist engineers. In the face of the engineering shortage, EDA software vendor Cadence Design Systems Inc. came to the aid of the Brazilian IC industry.

"The Brazilian chip industry faced a classic chicken-and-egg situation," said Cadence vice president Wendy Reeves Dunn. "However, they did not have the time to wait." Cadence decided to donate chip design software to universities and help them develop curricula. The target is to turn out 15,000 chip designers in three years.

It is not clear how this will play out for Brazil. Once graduated, many engineers prefer to leave the country to work abroad, where salaries are higher.

Many Brazilians have European roots, which makes it easy for them to move to places where they can earn much more. "We love to travel to the U.S. for holidays, but for work, we prefer Europe," said a Brazilian engineer.

Ray Bulger, CEO of Ireland's Duolog Technologies Ltd sees it the same way. When he changed his company's business model from that of an intellectual-property licensor to an EDA software company, Bulger advertised globally to find experts in Eclipse and Java. He found them in Brazil. "In Ireland, salaries are three times higher than in their home country," he said.

Nevertheless, there is an established chip design business in Brazil. Besides the design houses launched by the government, North American and European companies maintain design centers there. Freescale, for example, designs microcontrollers for automotive and industry automation applications in a center near Campinas in the state of Sao Paulo.

There is expertise in the Brazilian consumer electronics realm that could benefit the chip industry. Brazil has modified the Japanese HDTV standard to create a national derivative, said Cadence's Dunn. "This makes a good opportunity to build chips for. They already have designed software and protocols," she said.

In addition, many cars in Brazil have a "Flex" motor that can burn gasoline as well as biofuel derived from sugar cane. This requires specific engine control electronics--a potential technology candidate for exports.

But Gartner's Velosa contended that a semiconductor industry requires a complex ecosystem, not just a few design houses and a single production line. Citing Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in Dresden, Germany, and the usual incentives granted by the Chinese government to international companies to settle in a desired location, Velosa said he doubts that Brazil has the resources or intention to compete on this scale.

Government push
In November 2007, the Brazilian government approved the Growth Acceleration Project, through which it allocated $3.5 billion for technology, science and innovation over three years. The Brazilian microelectronics industry will be one of many voices clamoring for a share of that money.

In January, two companies reportedly announced investments in Brazil. One was Korean Brasemi, a back-end manufacturer of flash memory chips that reportedly will invest $32 million in a back-end line, according to newspaper Jornal de Minas. The Brasemi facility will be located in Vespasiano in the state of Minas Gerais, the newspaper said.

And in an interview with Computerworld do Brasil, U.S.-based Symetrix Corp. announced plans to build a factory for smart-card readers and smart-card chips. CEO Carlos Araujo said the company plans to produce chips equipped with a technology hitherto offered only in Japan.

When it comes to the Brazilian chip industry, one name emerges as regularly as the Loch Ness monster during the silly season: Companhia Brasileira de Semiconductores (CBS). This mysterious company, led by former Volkswagen do Brasil manager Wolfgang Sauer, is as tangible as the wind on Brazil's beaches, yet consistently makes it into the headlines.

According to reports in the Brazilian press in January, CBS was negotiating with Brazil's National Bank for Economic and Social Development to obtain $500 million to advance an ambitious project to produce chips for digital TV and telecommunications in Minas Gerais.

Even if some of these reports turn out to be idle talk, it appears that the Brazilian chip industry is in motion.

The industry is in such an early phase, though, that it is not clear which direction it is going to take and how it will position itself in a world market characterized by merciless competition. Some observers believe it is only a matter of time before Brazil will join the global semiconductor camp.

"The momentum is there. It is starting to take off," said Cadence's Dunn.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
EE Times Europe

Friday, March 21, 2008

Managing EMI in Class D audio applications

EMI is an unwanted disturbance caused in an electrical circuit by electromagnetic radiation emitted from an external source. The disturbance may interrupt, obstruct, or otherwise degrade the effective performance of the circuit.
In today's portable and consumer applications, space has become a premium, and engineers are often required to eliminate enclosures and shielding, and suppress EMI and noise through other means such as better segregation at the circuit level. Smaller space and higher functionality require high density PCBs, and the use of wafer-scale packaging with tiny PCB design rules makes EMI more of a concern.

EMI encompasses two aspects. Emissions refer to the scope to which equipment generates radiated noise. Susceptibility is the scope to which equipment is affected by emissions generated from other electromagnetic waves. The degree to which a designer controls unintended emissions may make the task of susceptibility easier. Emissions are generally classified as radiated and conducted emissions. Radiated emissions leave a circuit board, trace, or wire, and propagate through the air in the form of electromagnetic waves to interfere with a nearby receiver. It is important to note that a "receiver" refers to any circuit whose operation can be affected adversely by the reception of electromagnetic energy—such as a PCB trace or even the lead of an IC. Conducted emissions refer to energy which escapes, or is conducted, out of a circuit through wires or cables. Conducted emissions may cause problems directly or manifest themselves as radiated emissions.

Apple unveils 802.11n mobile base station for iTunes

Apple Inc. has introduced its 802.11n AirPort Express mobile base station, a tiny 6.7-ounce device packed with a built-in capability for downloading iTunes content.
The $99 AirPort Express works with both Macs and PCs, connects wirelessly with printers and can handle up to 10 simultaneous users. Promising easy mobility, the AirPort Express can be plugged into a wall for wireless Internet connectivity on the road.

Designed for use with Apple's iTunes, the device features built-in combo digital and analog connectors that enable home stereos and powered speakers to be connected to it. Remote speakers are detected automatically for display on a pop-up list so the AirTunes feature can stream music from the computer to the AirPort Express base station.

"Apple now includes 802.11n as standard in its entire line of AirPort base stations and Mac notebooks as well as iMac, Apple TV, and Time Capsule," the company said in a release. "AirPort Express safeguards data on networked computers with support for Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA/WPA2), 128-WEP encryption, and a built-in firewall."

Multiple AirPort Express base stations can also be arranged with each connected to powered speakers.

- W. David Gardner

Thursday, March 20, 2008

No BlackBerry ban in India

The Indian government finally ended the brewing controversy by ruling out Mar. 14 any disruption in BlackBerry services, The Times of India reported.
Telecom Minister A Raja, however, said that security aspects regarding the service remain and these need to be thrashed out. He told reporters that the government will discuss the issue in the Telecom Commission adding that the country's security is of paramount importance.

According to industry sources, mobile operators have asked BlackBerry developer Research In Motion for a secure solution to replace the existing one and is expected within four to five weeks.

Telecoms secretary Sidhartha Behura assured that they are keen to resolving the issue, there is no question of banning BlackBerry services.

At the same day, GSM operators met with Telecoms officials and committed to address the government's security concerns.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

TV tuner handles terrestrial digital broadcasting

Alps Electric have developed TV tuners for terrestrial digital broadcasting, dubbed the TDA Series, which are compatible in common casing with both terrestrial digital and analog broadcasting for Europe and North America.
As the industry transitions from analog to terrestrial digital broadcasting, Alps has provided a set product that is compatible with terrestrial broadcasting technology.

The product series carries models that are compatible with both terrestrial digital and analog broadcasting for each area in Europe and North America and models for digital cable TV broadcasting for China, Europe and other countries. All models come in a common casing realized through Alps' RF circuit technology and high-definition mounting technology.

The tuner offers a single casing size of 53mm x 38mm x 13mm, allowing flexibility and compatibility with all broadcasting standards and configurations in Europe, North America and China. Improvements in the airtightness rate of the casing, restrains tuner noise and improves resistance against noise caused by other parts built into the TV set.

According to the company, tuners that are compatible with both terrestrial digital and analog broadcasting for Europe and North America suffer from noise in the tuner, deteriorating the reception quality of the terrestrial analog broadcasting. To overcome this weakness, Alps built the original circuit into the tuner to reduce tuner noise and to realize higher reception quality for the terrestrial analog broadcasting.

Shipment of samples has started this March.

Samsung, Toshiba share 'greenest' crown

The latest release of Greenpeace's "Guide to Greener Electronics" hailed Samsung Electronics and Toshiba as the top greenest electronics firm.
The report, the seventh edition in a series that started in August 2006, ranks 18 manufacturers of PCs, cellphones, TV sets and game consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals and recycling.

PVC, BFR-free
Samsung has moved up from No. 2 in the last ranking to tie with Toshiba in the top spot. The South Korean firm scored top marks on most of the chemicals criteria and is now bringing products on the market that are free from the chemicals considered worst for the environment by Greenpeace. Samsung's new LCD panels are free from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and new handset models have circuit boards that are largely free from brominated flame retardants (BFRs), together with the housing and peripherals.

While Samsung improved on reporting of recycling obsolete products and supplies good information to consumers on what to do with discarded products, it loses points for providing voluntary take-back of electronic waste in only a few countries and for only some product groups.

Joining Samsung in the top spot, Toshiba has climbed from No. 6 by improving its score on Individual Producer Responsibility, which means the company had taken care of the electronic waste from its own-branded discarded end-of-life products. The Japanese firm also made commitments to phase out PVC plastic and BFRs from its whole product range by 2009.

Take-back service
Handset maker Nokia Corp. also inched its way up from the ninth spot to No. 3. Further testing done by Greenpeace on Nokia's take-back program revealed that the company's staff are still not informed about the take-back service in Russia and India, although the service was much improved in the Philippines and Thailand. Nokia scored well on the chemicals criteria after eliminating PVC plastic from new models of mobiles and currently eliminating BFRs from the remaining applications.

Former No. 1 Sony slipped to fourth place despite receiving top marks for reporting the quantities of electronic waste it recycles. Sony Ericsson, also dethroned from the top post, dropped to seventh after losing points on its e-waste policy and practice. It scores well on the chemicals criteria with a timeline of Jan. 1 for eliminating BFRs in two remaining applications and substituting phthalates, beryllium and some uses of antimony compounds.

Apple also continues to progress, inching up from 11th place to 9th, having improved its score for the new models of MacBook and MacBook Pro, with the majority of internal cables free of PVC and the majority of circuit board laminates free of BFRs. The iPod maker committed to eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs in all its products by the end of 2008.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

DVB-H is Europe's mobile TV standard

The European Commission (EC) has added the DVB-Handheld standard (DVB-H) to the European Union's list of standards that serve as the basis for encouraging the harmonized provision of telecommunications across the EU. The addition of DVB-H is a step towards establishing a single market for mobile TV in Europe. The mobile TV market is forecasted to reach about $32 billion by 2011, reaching some 500 million customers worldwide.
"For mobile TV to take off in Europe, there must first be certainty about the technology," said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information, society and media. The next steps for implementing the EU strategy on mobile broadcasting will include guidance on the authorisation regimes as well as the promotion of rights management systems based, as is DVB-H, on open standards.

Benefits of DVB-H
An EU-wide adoption of DVB-H will provide operators with the necessary market scale to launch mass mobile TV services across the EU. It will also benefit consumers, who will be able to watch TV on their cellphones or mobile devices at any time, anywhere across Europe.

After publication of the Commission decision in the EU List of Standards in the EU's Official Journal, Member States will be required to encourage the use of DVB-H. This clear support to the DVB family of standards is also an important signal given to countries about to take a decision on the technology for digital and mobile broadcasting, using DVB-T, DVB-H and DVB-SH.

DVB-H is currently already the most widely used standard for mobile TV in the EU. It is currently between trials and commercial launch in 16 countries. Commercial DVB-H services are already available in Italy, with further launches expected later this year notably in Finland, Austria, France, Switzerland and Spain.

IP rights concerns
A transparent intellectual property rights regime, based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and allowing low price of devices, is key to the success of mobile TV. The Commission will therefore continue to closely monitor progress made towards the constitution of the DVB-H patent pool.

Efficient procedures for authorising mobile TV operators are essential for the fast take-up of the service. In February 2008, the Commission discussed best practice for mobile TV authorisation with industry and Member States, asking for contributions on the issue from all stakeholders. Guidelines on best practice are currently under preparation to help member states to deploy mobile TV without delay. Light-touch regulation and clear licensing regimes will give industry the legal certainty they need to launch their mobile TV services without undue impediments.

Cellphones update car navigation systems in South Korea

South Korea's Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) has developed a technology that will help consumers to easily update information on their car navigation system via cellphones.
The state-run laboratory disclosed that new method uses homegrown WiBro and CDMA mobile phones to gain access to the Internet and directly download changes to maps stored in the navigation systems. The technology is optimized to only update changed data, which could enhance the input speed.

ETRI said the new technology, which took two years to develop, requires a specialized server that can send changed map and address information to handsets and a database management system to help the input process. A total of five patents have been requested including an international one for the technology.

Most car navigation products require users to download updated information on roads and addresses on a separate PC and transfer to the navigation system. An ETRI researcher commented that the conventional process is complicated and inconvenient since car navigation is now widely used and that some drivers may not be familiar with computers.

SK Energy Co., Navteq Korea and Themap Co. took part in research and development of the mobile update technology, which is set to be tested and put to practical use on Jeju Island.

First tri-radio 802.11n access point rolls

The Enterprise Mobility business of Motorola Inc. has released AP-7131, said to be the industry's first tri-radio 802.11n access point featuring Motorola's new adaptive AP architecture.
The tri-radio design integrates three 802.11n radios that simultaneously support high-speed client access, mesh backhaul and dedicated dual-band intrusion protection for enabling the all-wireless enterprise. Using an expansion slot, the third radio can be field upgraded to enable next-generation 3G/4G technologies like WiMAX for primary or redundant WAN connectivity.

Flexible solution
The AP-7131 access point has been engineered for flexibility and ease-of-use for wireless enterprise deployments. It can be used as a standalone access point within SME businesses. In adaptive mode, the AP-7131 combines the benefits of central management and site-survivability to help reduce the complexity of deployments in remote offices. In a campus WLAN switch environment using the thin AP mode, the AP-7131 can be centrally managed for large-scale deployments. This multimode operation is supported by the same firmware version to greatly simplify the task of building a large scale multisite wireless enterprise.

"The mesh-enabled AP-7131 provides the security and performance that enterprises require at a fraction of the cost of wired networks and realizes the long promised vision of the wireless enterprise," said Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager of enterprise WLAN, Motorola Enterprise Mobility business. "Leveraging the industry's first tri-radio 802.11n access point, users will be able to unleash the full-potential of 802.11n for superior performance of data, video and voice applications along with mesh backhaul and security on the network."

The AP-7131 provides 24/7 intrusion protection, which can significantly lower the cost of building a secure wireless enterprise. Traditional solutions time-slice the radio for both access and intrusion protection, limiting 802.11n performance and security capabilities. Motorola's AP-7131 with the third radio eliminates the need for time slicing or the need for a dedicated sensor access point for security thus reducing the cost of secure and manageable deployments. Featuring a fully Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS2)-compliant chipset, a fast MIPS network processor with hardware-accelerated encryption and dual GbE interfaces, the AP-7131 delivers full 600Mbit/s connection speeds, while simultaneously providing enterprise-class security.

Developer support
To help customers with AP-7131 802.11n network rollouts, Motorola will launch its LANPlanner tool with 802.11n capability in Q2 08. The LANPlanner will allow customers to view 802.11n access point placements along with AP-7131 MIMO performance maps for the first time. In addition, an Automated Migration Wizard will greatly simplify migration to 802.11n by allowing businesses to specify migration paths, view mixed network coverage and determine the exact number of AP-7131 AP's required in the final network design.

Motorola's AP-7131 also includes an industrial design that allows the same access point to work in both carpeted areas and industrial environments by attaching an aesthetically appealing "snap-on façade" with integrated antenna elements. The AP-7131, designed by Italian designers Giugiaro Design, delivers an elegantly fashioned MIMO access point suitable for installation in hospitality and carpeted office environments.