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MIPI, USB 3.0 promoters collaborate on mobile chip interface

Posted: 06 May 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Superspeed Inter-Chip spec? chip-to-chip interface? M-PHY spec? USB 3.0 spec?

The USB 3.0 Promoters Group and the MIPI Alliance have joined forces to develop a new high-speed, low-power chip-to-chip interface for next-generation mobile silicon. The two industry groups are keen on releasing a joint specification in early 2012.

The so-called Superspeed Inter-Chip spec (SSIC) aims to support PHY data rates starting at 1.2 to 2.9Gbps and eventually extending them up to 5.8Gbps. It also plans a low power mode for data rates between 10Kbps and 600Mbps.

SSIC targets power consumption of about 1-5pJ per bit/second, depending on the mode used. In high-speed mode, that may amount to an average of about 20mW.

The effort essentially marries the M-PHY spec, a low-power PHY technology defined by the MIPI Alliance, with the media access controller and higher layer software of the USB 3.0 spec. A working group under the USB 3.0 Promoters Group including members of Intel, ST Ericsson and Texas Instruments started working on the details of the spec about a month ago.

The working group is now deciding what if any parts of the USB 3.0 spec to make optional because they may not be needed in a chip interface. "We wanted to lower the cost of design and time to market by leveraging existing IPit's about software reuse," said Brian Carlson, vice chair of MIPI and Omap product manager at TI.

SSIC aims to be a follow-on of Inter-Chip Connectivity (ICC), a chip interface based on the 480Mbps USB 2.0 spec developed privately by chip designer SMSC. SMSC started licensing the technology in June and signed up Qualcomm and AMD earlier this year. It makes its spec available free to host chip designers and for a one-time $100,000 fee to peripheral chip designers.

SSIC would be royalty-free to all adopter-level members of the MIPI Alliance and the USB 3.0 Promoters group who want to use it in chips for what Carlson described as "mobile terminals with voice capability," including Wi-Fi devices with VoIP features. Vendors could license the technology on a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) basis for other kinds of chips or systems.

The need is clear. Multiple vendors of applications processors are already designing their own next-generation chip interfaces due to a lack of a standard for the kind of high-throughput, low-power link they need.

For its part, the MIPI Alliance hopes to establish its M-PHY as a general-purpose chip-to-chip interface. It has already specified the technology as the basis for six of its own existing or pending interconnect standards. Jedec has also adopted M-PHY as part of its UFS flash memory interface.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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