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Comms design activity bucks the downward trend

Posted: 16 Jun 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:dsl? g.lite? communications chips? chip design activities?

Rollout delays, service problems and fly-by-night service providers may have dampened market conditions for DSL technology, but design activity continues at a frantic pace. One casualty, though, appears to be G.Lite low-rate asymmetric DSL, which many vendors are shunting aside in favor of symmetric technology.

"I have seen no slowdown in design activity for DSL, even though it looks like the world is going to end," said analyst Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts. "I find that lots of deployments are still going on at full speed."

Bad press has created the misconception that the DSL market has become stagnant, said Tom Kovanic, vice president of marketing for broadband access at Mindspeed Technologies. Mindspeed itself recently let go of 75 employees as part of parent Conexant Systems' announced cut of 1,500 jobs. Yet Kovanic said product design for broadband communications applications, including DSL, is moving forward. "There is still substantial demand, " he said. "To lower the cost of DSL you need to design newer and newer boxes, so the design activity has not slowed."

Market data suggests as much. From the fourth quarter of 1999 to the end of 2000, the number of DSL connections in the United States jumped from 500,000 to 2.4 million. And that is still only 2 percent of available copper connections, according to market research firm Telechoice.

Even so, silicon vendors targeting DSL are changing the product lineup to focus on areas that promise higher returns. One loser is G.Lite ADSL, which is ceding design wins to SDSL. "Low-rate G.Lite pretty much has gone by the wayside," analyst Strauss said. "It has to do with the fact that it does not cost much more to do full rate than to do low rate."

With that cue, Mindspeed recently introduced single- and eight-port SDSL octal devices that comply with the the G.shdsl spec from the ITU. Targeting business-class DSL services, the devices can handle multichannel voice, Web hosting, videoconferencing and e-mail, according to Mindspeed.

"From our perspective, we are on track and exceeding our design win goals," said a spokeswoman for C-Port, which is part of Motorola. "I think people see us as a cost-savings advantage over having to go through an ASIC development cycle."

"I do not see any correlation between market conditions and the demand for digital bandwidth," said Steve Longoria, director of market strategy for network processors at IBM Microelectronics. "The challenge is how to deal with the economics of Wall Street squeezing the bottom line and at the same time deliver the bandwidth customers require."

It is uncertain how much the financial squeeze will affect engineering resources at chip companies targeting the hot spots in the telecom infrastructure. But there is anecdotal evidence that engineering budgets are tightening. Asked whether C-Port is looking to hire design engineers, the spokeswoman replied, "Carefully."

? Anthony Cataldo

EE Times





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