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Gigabit Ethernet PHY breaks the logjam

Posted: 06 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:VSC8601? VSC8641? Gigabit Ethernet? PHY? Vitesse?

As with most next-generation technologies, the transition to Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) has been constrained by cost, power, and complexity. The design team at Vitesse Semiconductor decided to put its engineering muscle behind removing the roadblocks to widespread GbE deployment and set their targets firmly on low power, small system footprint, and reduced design complexity for their customers. The result? The VSC8601 and VSC8641 GbE PHYs that cut the power to 600mW, increased integration, and found a price point that enabled a reduced bill of materials cost.

When it comes to performance, all GbE PHYs are required to meet the basic IEEE performance metric, but Vitesse wanted to go further. "We offer advantages at the system level through noise tolerance, so our customers can build a simpler, more cost-effective design because our products tolerate more noise from other components," reports Sean Michaud, director of business development at Vitesse's Ethernet products division. "In fact we offer 10 times better noise tolerance than the competition, and can deliver a true 100m range in an area with common noise frequencies." The history behind these new products is long and impressive.

The VSC8601 and VSC8641 are 6th generation devices that grew out of the company's 10/100/1000 Ethernet product line.

The major technical hurdle for the Vitesse design team was reducing the power, and they approached this by leveraging the company's patented voltage mode line driver technology, as opposed to current mode driver technology, which is typically used in 10/100 design. "Reducing the power was what enabled us to go back and get the higher integration," explains Michaud." As a result, the team was able to integrate line side termination resistors and used "creative techniques" to remove the need for external resistors, reducing board space and overall BOM cost.

The VSC8601 is clearly targeted at consumer space, specifically focused on the Gbit LAN on the motherboard. The VSC8641 supports a GMI interface (GMII) and features a larger pin count and package. Going forward, the team plans to work to further reduce power and system costs.

The VSC8601 and VSC8641 are available and shipping in volume production. Pricing is $1.60 (100,000 qty.). Datasheets are not immediately accessible online, though, so for more information you'll need to contact the company directly.

- Janine Love

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