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China firms mount FM tuner face-off

Posted: 30 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:CMOS? FM? transceiver? Comlent? RDA?

Two Shanghai companies are tuning in to the FM radio chip market, hoping to challenge market leaders NXP Semiconductors and Silicon Laboratories with their own CMOS-based offerings.

The companiesRDA Microelectronics and Comlent Inc.are within shouting distance of each other and are likely to be rivals in other areas as well, including the up-and-coming market for RF CMOS-based 3G transceivers. They already compete in China's PHS market.

Global coverage
Both RDA and Comlent hope to take advantage of the rise in FM tuners as a standard feature in MP3 players and handsets. Both RDA's RDA5800 device and Comlent's CL6010 solution are tuned for global coverage in the 76MHz to 108MHz bands. Neither now supports the European Radio Data System and U.S. Radio Broadcast Data System, but both companies say this support will be in their next-gen chips.

To challenge market leaders, RDA focuses on integration and power. "We are a latecomer to the market, so we had to have better integration, so that meant no external components," said Vincent Tai, chief executive of RDA. Tai said the RDA5800 compares favorably to Silicon Labs' Si4702 FM radio tuner, which has one external supply bypass capacitor. The extra cost of that capacitor may not matter much to a customer, but it does show that RDA engineers are frugal with their designs.

Tai claims that the RDA5800's power consumption16mA on a 3.3V power supplyalso beats its competitors, even though it's made on a mainstream 0.18?m process.

Important elements
Comlent concedes that its CL6010 isn't as highly integrated or power-efficient as RDA's chip. But that's not something it worries about, and many important elements are on-chip, including the VCO and LDO regulator that allows direct connection to a battery.

Instead of the standalone chip market, Comlent is targeting add-in modules, where it thinks the CL6010 will be very competitive, said Alex Xiao, director of engineering at Comlent. MP3 designs change quickly, and that means board designers need to keep up.

Comlent's CL6010 comes in a 5-by-5mm, 32-pin QFN package. The RDA5800 comes in a 4-by-4mm 24-pin QFN. Both are sampling now.

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times

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