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China firms challenge radio chip market leaders

Posted: 16 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:RDA Microelectronics? Comlent? CMOS? NXP Semiconductors? Silicon Laboratories?

Two Shanghai-based 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 companies?RDA Microelectronics and Comlent Inc.?are within shouting distance of each other and are also likely to be rivals in other areas, including the up-and-coming market for RF CMOS-based 3G transceivers. They already compete in China's PHS market.

Both RDA and Comlent hope to benefit from 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 76-108MHz bands. Neither 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 consumption?16mA on a 3.3V power supply?also beats its competitors, even though it's made on a mainstream 0.18?m process.

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 low-dropout regulator that allows direct connection to a battery.

FM tuner seeks integration edge. RDA5800 requires no external components.

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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