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Centillium plans double play in passive optical net ICs

Posted: 25 Mar 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:centillium communications? passive optical networking? pon? ethernet?

Centillium Communications Inc.'s new optical business unit is developing chipsets for emerging passive optical networking (PON) applications.

During the next year or so, the company says it will offer separate chipsets for Ethernet and broadband PONs, targeting both customer-premises equipment and central-office designs.

While some competitors place all their efforts on either the Ethernet or broadband side, "our plan is to roll out a product portfolio that supports both EPON and BPON," said Armando Pereira, general manager of the optical unit. Centillium will be able to serve these various markets by developing flexible chipsets, he said.

Centillium hired Pereira, the founder of Alloptic Inc., in 2002 to form its optical division. Now, as carriers start to deploy fiber in the last mile, the company is bringing the group out of stealth mode. As it did with DSL, Centillium plans to address both the customer premises equipment (CPE) and central-office sides of the PON market.

For CPE, it is crafting a three-piece offering that includes a transceiver, a protocol system-on-chip and a broadband services processor. "The protocol chip comes in two flavors: one for BPON and one is EPON," Pereira said. "The plan is that these devices will be pin-compatible."

Both versions will integrate a Gigabit Ethernet media-access controller, an emulation layer, an encryption/decryption block, serializer/deserializer blocks and a physical-coding sublayer. The chip will also include a forward error correction block. "We're working on an FEC technique that will improve the split ratio encountered in the outside plant," Pereira said.

The transceiver and broadband services processor will be the same for both the EPON and BPON chipsets. The services processor handles bridging and routing tasks while providing an engine for handling voice traffic. The transceiver integrates line driver, transimpedance amplifier and clock-and-data recovery functionality.

The transceiver design stands in stark contrast to the technologies of other chipset vendors, Centillium said. Some rely on an optical transceiver module that combines optics and electrical tasks, but Centillium said it has integrated those elements into a single IC. This approach reduces board space and power and allows designers to buy their optics from less-expensive sources in China and elsewhere, Pereira said. "On the CPE side, you need to go after every cost cut," he said. By pulling the electronics off the module, Pereira said, designers will see a cost savings in a CPE design.

Centillium provided fewer details on its central-office plans, though Pereira said BPON and EPON chipsets will be offered in this market as well. Also, the company will look to develop higher-density versions of both chipsets over time, he said.

Centillium will release its EPON CPE chipset in the second quarter, Pereira said. The BPON CPE chip set may debut by year's end. The EPON and BPON central-office chipsets will come to market by the end of this year, he said, with the EPON version launching first.

NTT in Japan has made its initial selection of central-office equipment vendors for its PON rollout and is now evaluating CPE designs. Centillium faces a tough challenge if it hopes to win business with NTT. Startup Passave Technologies last month claimed that its chipset had won the ports for NTT's central-office providers as well as design wins in eight CPE designs. "We are very aware of Passave and their success in Japan. Its win on the CO side happened because we were behind," Pereira said.

Nevertheless, he said, when NTT moves to mass deployment, there will be an opportunity to gain ports in Japan. And NTT is concerned that one chipset vendor not dominate the market, which could play to Centillium's favor, he said.

- Robert Keenan

EE Times





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