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Semiconductor 130312 eet_confidential_eetimes

  1. 1. ustry global ele ctronics ind intellig ence for the Actionable March 2012 THE BIG IDEAq The Big Ideaq Cell nets get small Company Teardown Small Cells Shaking Up Silicon Labs stays the course page 5 Cellular Networksq EET on the QT Vulnerable drones; Protecting space Over the next two years, the relatively staid market for cellular base- tourists; Rambus and Unity stations will see a disruption equivalent to the advent of the tablet page 8 computer. That’s when a new wave of small-cell basestations sport- ing hybrid cellular/Wi-Fi radios will emerge, giving operators newq VC Watch ways to build out their networks and consumers new ways to U.K.’s eoSemi shakes up oscillators remain connected. page 11 With market dynamics in flux, small and emerging system makers are looking for ways to grab a slice ofq Market Data the $40.3 billion basestation market long dominated Europe’s MEMS push by Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NEC and Nokia Siemens page 13 Networks. Some of the entrenched giants already are using acquisitions to shore up their positions. Carriers will forge their own partnerships around small cells, looking to share the hefty costs of building out what amounts to a new tier of their wireless networks. In some cases, they may end up sharing cells mounted on streetlights or in public buildings with other operators, cities or businesses. The carrier deals could spawn new market dynamics that will ripple through the supply chain. Smart semiconductor makers that anticipate the waves and carefully ride them to new opportunities will avoid getting washed away. Inside the small cells To date, cellular basestations have usually come in one size, owned and run by individual carriers that placed them in sealed outdoor boxes at the foot of antenna towers. These main- frames of the wireless world came under assault a few years ago by femtocells, small residential terminals that extend coverage generally to individual homes in dead zones. Though femto- cells are showing slow but steady growth, industry ana- lysts no longer see them as a market disrupter. Instead, they are used more as commodity systems provided free by carriers to help fill coverage gaps. Over the past year, the concept of something more signifi- A new class of compact basestations, now being defined, promises to act as a See, page 14 disruptive influence in the next big wave of cellular-network infrastructure
  2. 2. EE | Times Confidential March 2012THE BIG IDEAcant in the no-man’s land between a traditionalbasestation and a femtocell has gained sway All sides agree that next-generation base - stations will need to support a mix of 3G, 4G Next-generationwith network planners. A mix of carriers and Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi networks.private companies plan to use these small cells They also will have to work seamlessly to hand basestationsto form a second tier of the wireless network, off traffic to each other and to the traditionalone that provides greater capacity in urban basestations across all three nets. will have toprecincts and extends coverage in rural areas. Those requirements force a lot of work in soft- Indeed, small cells could solve carriers’ biggestproblems: a flood of mobile data in cities and a ware and standards that are still very much in progress. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project support a mixlack of low-cost options and spectrum to extend (3GPP), for instance, is still hammering out a spectheir networks. But network planners and engi- for IP flow mobility (IFOM) to bring some of the of 3G, 4G LTEneers are still defining the small-cell basestation. authentication, security and management capa- The Femto Forum trade group of operators bilities of a cellular connection to Wi-Fi links. and Wi-Fiand OEMs captured the shift in focus just before Illustrating the software complexity, the engi-last month’s Mobile World Congress, renamingitself the Small Cell Forum. neering team at IP.Access (Cambridge, U.K.), one of the more successful of the up-and-coming networks—and Concepts for micro-, pico- and metrocells are small-cell startups, has 20 software engineers forevolving. Several flavors of products are apt to every hardware engineer. IP.Access struck a deal seamlesslyemerge. Some will focus on indoor installations with Radisys to make back-end gateways to pairfor a few users in a confined space, such as an with its homegrown small cells and software in hand off trafficoffice or shop. Others will be more robust for use order to offer a package that tries to rival offer-outside by larger groups of more mobile users. ings from such giants as Ericsson.A Guide to Big Players in Small CellsCompany Status OutlookEntrenched giantsEricsson Acquired carrier Wi-Fi company Promises merged cellular/Wi-Fi microcells in Belair Networks in February 2012 early 2013Alcatel-Lucent Rolled out Light Radio modules in 2011 Claims to be working on small-cell designs with seven carriers, including, China Mobile, Telefonica and VerizonNokia Siemens Acquired Flexi Zone mesh-networking In trials with release in first-quarter 2013Networks technology from Motorola in 2011 to make 100 small cells appear as one to carriersSpoilersHuawei Said to be significantly undercutting Announced Atom-brand small cells competition in basestation pricesChina Mobile Started Cloud RAN initiative in March Aims for volume product shipments in 2016 2011 to run basestation jobs on x86 serversThe femto startupsIP.Access Struck deal with Radisys to co-design Promising 3G/4G LTE/Wi-Fi small cells ready for gateways field trials in early 2013Ubiquisys Claims femtocell lead with 32 contracts Developed novel model going into trials using Intel Atom to run caching and other appsSource: EE Times Confidential 2
  3. 3. EE | Times Confidential March 2012 THE BIG IDEA February. At the Mobile World Congress,Growing the Small-Cell Market Ericsson promised microcells that will combine The action willTotal small-cell shipments by unit the two companies’ technologies in 2013.• 3.2 million in 2012 Who will follow next is anyone’s guess. pick up in• 62.4 million by 2016 (small cells become 88% IP.Access and Ubiquisys, which together supply of all basestations) most of today’s femtocells, are living on multi- 2013, when ple rounds of venture-capital investments thatBreakdown by small-cell type have swelled to as much as $60 million each.• Femtocells: 2.5 million in 2012 to 59 million Partnerships are in place that could pave the players have in 2016 way to acquisitions. Ubiquisys already supplies• Enterprise and public-area picocells: 140K in femtocells on an OEM basis to NEC and Nokia hybrid small 2012 to 540K in 2016 Siemens Networks; IP.Access supplies femtos to• Public-access microcells and metrocells (mainly outdoors): 595K in 2012 to 2.9 million in 2016 Cisco for AT&T’s network. cells ready forSource: Informa Telecoms & Media Cost dynamics Carriers face their own pressures. European carrier trials Three sets of companies will converge over operators have spent an estimated $8 billion on the next two years on the small-cell market with LTE spectrum and face spending another $30 bil- new products. Along with IP.Access, a whole lion to roll out LTE. Meanwhile, over-the-top crop of femtocell companies will collide with services on their networks are siphoning off the entrenched giants coming in from the mar- business for such data-heavy services as stream- ket for macro basestations, as the traditional ing music and movies. boxes are now called. Somewhere in the middle Those pressures led Vittorio Colao, chief exec- they will meet companies such as Alvarion that utive officer of Vodaphone, Europe’s largest car- have been selling carrier-grade Wi-Fi systems to rier with more than 400 million subscribers, to quickly offload strained mobile data nets. renew a call for co-investing in building out the The action will begin in earnest next year cellular network. “So far we have not succeeded when most of the players expect to have hybrid in getting anyone to do it,” he says. 3G/4G/Wi-Fi small cells ready for carrier trials. If Nevertheless, Franco Bernabe, chair of Telecom all goes well, carriers should start investing in Italia and of the GSMA group of operators that real deployments in 2014 as part of a second hosts Mobile World Congress, says that building wave of the LTE networks. out LTE nets is the top priority for carriers today. Setting the trend, the first wave of LTE deploy- European carriers already are passing the cost ments started in late 2010 using standard macro squeeze on to small-cell makers. A network plan- basestations. Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson won ner for Spain’s Telefonica called for small cells most of the business from AT&T and Verizon, that cost less than $1,000, three orders of magni- who have deployed three-quarters of the LTE tude less than traditional basestations, which sell basestations to date. Nokia Siemens Networks for more than $1 million each. Telefonica is test- has a handful of contracts from carriers in South ing prototype Light Radio small cells from Alcatel- Korea and Japan that represent most of the Lucent that cost from $2,000 to $5,000. remaining LTE market. Meanwhile, availability of $100 femtocell boxes It’s been a slow roll for LTE. So far, only 9 mil- has skewed carriers’ expectations, notes Andy lion subscribers are using the 4G nets out of Tiller, vice president of marketing for IP.Access, a about 3.6 billion cellular subscribers worldwide. company that has provided such systems. “The Of those, 1.3 billion subscribers are already on reality is the hardware for small cells is more than broadband nets. Many European carriers are just two or three times more expensive than for femto- getting started with LTE trials, focusing first on cells, and then you have to deal with the extra macro basestations. software complexity of hybrid cellular/Wi-Fi carri- It’s only after the first layer of macro LTE er networks—and you have to make a business basestations goes in that the second tier of small out of it. These small cells will sell in tens of thou- cells will follow. But preparations for that sands of units, not millions like the femtocells.” deployment already are under way. Two potential spoilers out of China are adding Consolidation started when Ericsson bought pressure to the cost squeeze. Huawei carrier Wi-Fi specialist Belair Networks in Technologies (Shenzhen) already is significantly 3
  4. 4. EE|Times Confidential March 2012 THE BIG IDEA make the concept practical nationwide.Small Cells, Big Growth As players sort out their next move, a few A third-partySmall cells could account for 88% of all cells intriguing opportunities are emerging. A third-by 2016 party software supplier could aim to become the software suppli- 2011 2015 equivalent of an arms dealer to all sides, with code to manage traffic across cellular and Wi-FiSmall-cell total 3,197,809 62,365,50 nets. Alternatively, an open-source project could er couldMacrocell total 5,167,522 8,857,291 try to commoditize the secret sauce by getting theTotal Cells 8,365,331 71,222,791 cellular community to develop it. become theSource: Informa Telecoms & Media Hardware challenges abound as well. Nick Johnson, chief technologist at IP.Access, looks in chagrin at the eight fat power amps his small-cell equivalent of undercutting prices of Ericsson and Alcatel- design needs to handle the four cellular bands it Lucent in macro basestations, operators say. For has to service. an arms dealer its part, China Mobile (Hong Kong), the world’s The first chipmaker managing to launch a power largest carrier with 650 million subscribers, is amp or support circuits that could span 700–900 working on a plan to use data centers of x86- MHz and/or 1.7–2.6 GHz and handle 2xs3 multiple- to all sides based servers to replace basestations altogether. input/multiple output (MIMO) operation will have Intel, IBM, Huawei and ZTE have collaborated a big win on its hands for small-cell makers. on proof-of-concept designs for the Cloud Radio Johnson claims that at least two chip companies Access Network (C-RAN) concept. Intel is are in advanced stages with such products. already at work on a next-generation SoC that, The power-amp issue is one of many where when paired with one of its Xeon server chips, chipmakers could apply new techniques and could handle many of the DSP functions of a smart integration to help handle cost constraints. basestation. Before the big battles in small cells are over, plen- It could take a few years before commercial C- ty of silicon opportunities are likely to emerge for RAN products are ready and a decade before they such existing players as Freescale, Broadcom, gain widespread use, predicts Bill Huang, head of Mindspeed and Texas Instruments along with R&D at China Mobile. Huang is quick to admit new ones such as Intel. that China Mobile will need big backhaul pipes. All sides should expect shifts up and down the China has an unusually hefty amount of optical supply chain as standards are put in place, designs fiber in place to connect remote antennas to the are completed and OEMs and operators collide and data centers—but, Huang jokes, it could require collaborate to build out a new class of more distrib- an army of robots to install enough fiber to uted cellular networks. –Rick Merritt EE Times Confidential ART DIRECTOR Nicolas Mokhoff, New York A UBM Electronics Publication Debee Rommel (516) 562-5625 (516) 562-5000; Fax: (516) 562-5325 (516) 562-5280 CEO, UBM Electronics COPY CHIEF PUBLISHER CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Diana Scheben Paul Miller Peter Clarke, London (415) 947-6631 (011) 44 7767 865593 EDITOR IN CHIEF, EE Times Dylan McGrath, San Francisco Confidential (415) 738-6428 George Leopold (516) 562-5090 Rick Merritt, San Jose (408) 930-7372 EDITOR IN CHIEF, EE Times Junko Yoshida (516) 232-7835 To subscribe, please go to Marketing contact: Linda Uslaner, or 516-562-5843 Sales contact: Kevin Davies, or 610-420-5028 4
  5. 5. EE | Times Confidential March 2012qCOMPANY TEARDOWN Three Reasons To Take Silicon Labs Seriously Riding a wave of its own mixed-signal designs gy differs little from Sayiner’s. “We are not in Departing CEO into a broad-based horizontal market, Silicon need of a new strategy,” Tuttle said. “We have a Laboratories is “well positioned” to compete great business and we’d like to preserve and against Texas Instruments for a supporting role build upon what made it successful.” Sayiner is in the emerging “Internet of Things,” says Silicon Labs already has succeeded with its Silicon Labs CEO Necip Sayiner. 80C51-based microcontroller units (MCUs). In betting that Since nearly every chip company CEO with late February it added 32-bit MCUs based on the advanced-RISC-machine (ARM) architecture. decent mixed-signal expertise is trumpeting an Internet of Things strategy, Sayiner’s claims Though the ARM-based MCU market is “a Silicon Labs will come as no surprise. You might even say that space already well served” by Silicon Labs’ trumpets are cheap.e competitors, Sayiner stresses, “We’d like to have a promi- think that what we are selling isn’t [just] MCUs but mixed sig- nent position in nals with MCU in it.” As the Internet of Things moves from concept to reality, the emerging where everything from door knobs to lightbulbs and thermo- Internet of stats are expected to have an IP address and a link to the Internet, Things market Silicon Labs sees a growing oppor- tunity for flooding the market with low-power, low-cost mixed- signal microprocessor units Outgoing Silicon Labs CEO Necip Sayiner (left), incoming CEO Tyson Tuttle. Sayiner’s tenure ends in April (MPUs)—“integrated with sens- ing, communications and smarts But Sayiner plans to back up his talk with a in a single device,” Sayiner says. series of new products, including chips that inte- Investment-banker Piper Jaffray recom- grate microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), mends Silicon Labs’ stock as “overweight,” sensors, radio frequency (RF), microcontroller meaning a better value for the money. In its and analog technologies. The company hopes to most recent research note on Silicon Labs, the roll out the devices this year. With that in mind, firm’s research analyst concludes that “we Sayiner likes his chances of gaining prominence believe Silicon Labs has very strong, and yet to in the Internet of Things market. be announced, new products in the lab.” On March 1, Silicon Labs announced that One could surmise that silicon tuners, Sayiner will pass the top spot to Tyson Tuttle, quartz-free oscillators and mix-signal ICs inte- Silicon Labs’ chief operating officer. The transi- grated with MCUs are three key reasons why tion takes effect on April 18. Tuttle, who has both financial and industry analysts are paying been with Silicon Labs since 1997, appears to attention to Silicon Labs. have been groomed for some time. He became COO last year, managing the company’s busi- Transformation ness units and R&D activities. Silicon Labs was founded in 1996 by three During a conference call announcing the industry veterans from Crystal Semiconductor. succession, Tuttle said, “I am already intimate- Though the company was initially focused on ly involved in day-to-day operations.” He also established products such as cellular trans- made clear that his view of Silicon Labs’ strate- ceivers and analog modems, it now positions 5
  6. 6. EE | Times Confidential March 2012qCOMPANY TEARDOWN itself as a vendor of “high-performance, ana- Semiconductors has been delivering similar log-intensive, mixed-signal ICs.” high-performance silicon TV tuners based on a The company’s annual revenue in the fiscal BiCMOS process. MaxLinear also is catching up. year ending December 31 was $491.6 million, Silicon Labs expects silicon-tuner penetra- down slightly from $493 million a year earlier. tion into the TV market to rise to about 50 per- The company stands on solid financial cent in 2012. It also expects that its own sili- ground, having posted a profit every quarter con TV tuner’s market share will grow to at since its 2000 IPO. The company’s gross mar- least 30 percent this year. gins have impressively exceeded 60 percent. If Silicon Labs owed its success exclusively Sayiner says the company has undergone “a to silicon TV tuners, it would just be another significant transformation” since he joined as one-hit wonder. But it has hitched its future to CEO six and a half years ago. Just five years Sayiner’s diversification strategy. ago, most of its current products didn’t exist. With the broader market representing more Sayiner’s plan was to expand Silicon Labs’ than 40 percent of the company’s revenue, business in two directions, delving deeper into Sayiner predicts that “in a few quarters, we vertical product segments while capturing expect 50 percent of our revenue to come from business in broad-based horizontal markets. this segment.” Products targeting broad-based In the past two years, Silicon Labs’ TV markets include mixed-signal MCUs, timing tuners have recorded significant growth in devices, human-interface controllers, and sen- one vertical market: broadcast. sors and wireless receivers. The silicon TV tuner is a decade-old market Crystal-based oscillators are one area in segment that’s been hyped, targeted and tack- which Silicon Labs has made headway, accord- led unsuccessfully by pioneering silicon tuner- ing to the CEO. The focus is on quartz-free, chip vendors such as Microtune. The TV mar- ultrastable silicon-oscillator technology aimed ket “stubbornly resisted any significant pene- at providing all-silicon solutions. “The frequen- tration of silicon tuners prior to 2009,” accord- cy of an oscillator is determined by the thick- ing to IHS iSuppli. Silicon tuners fared well in ness of crystal quartz,” Sayiner says. That means digital cable and satellite set-tops but faltered in it requires a unique quartz-crystal resonator to TV sets still receiving analog and digital broad- generate each frequency. “It involves a mechani- cast signals. TV manufacturers were turned off cal process of cutting the quartz,” he adds. by the high cost of silicon tuners as well as by The company has developed and patented a their subpar analog performance. flexible-silicon architecture, coupling its oscil- According Sayiner, the market took off two lator to a phase-locked loop and using a DSP as years ago “when we cracked the code, a corrector, that lets it provide “an oscillator of achieved the level of performance TV OEMs any frequency at any type of resolution cus- had expected and began offering [silicon tomers require, very quickly.” Sayiner says, tuners] at the right cost.” In 2011, Silicon Labs’ adding “We can register it, test it and ship it silicon TV tuners were in “20 percent of all just in two days.” TVs sold globally,” he claims. For low- to midrange oscillators, Silicon The company isn’t alone in benefiting from Labs uses a “MEMS structure as a resonator” the move to silicon tuners. NXP and integrates it on top of a CMOS IC. The Silicon Labs stands on solid financial ground, boosted by its more than 60% gross margin 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Revenue $239M $288M $337M $416M $441M $493M $492M Gross margin 66.5% 65.1% 61.4% 62.4% 63.8% 66.0% 61.6% (Note all the gross margin numbers are based on non-GAAP figures) Source: Silicon Labs 6
  7. 7. EE|Times Confidential March 2012qCOMPANY TEARDOWN architecture “almost looks like through-sili- monitors to account for things like ‘bearing con vias,” Sayiner says. “We believe this will wobble,’” he adds. “Most of the create good stability for low-cost oscillators.” Ohr also stresses that Silicon Labs isn’t the Silicon Labs has been refining the CMOS- first company to take this approach. “Analog plus-MEMS approach since acquiring the Devices has a line of microverters [that] will components technology two years ago from a Silicon talk to an ARM core as well as the 80C51.” But Valley startup called Silicon Clocks. The goal “to be sure, Silicon Labs has made ultralow- are useful is “integrating a crystal in any IC, thus remov- power versions of the 80C51, enabling it to ing the need for a discrete crystal,” Sayiner compete with ARM for slots in handheld says. portables.” across a broad Steve Ohr, Gartner’s research analyst for Similar arguments apply to Silicon Labs’ analog and power semiconductors, expects sil- upcoming 32-bit ARM-based microcontrollers. range of mar- icon clocks and timing controllers to result in “Companies such as STMicro, TI and impressive growth for Silicon Labs. The com- Freescale offer 32-bit MCUs that include some pany “carved out a slot for itself with its own analog capabilities. For example, TI’s Stellaris kets”—increas- crystal-based oscillators and clock generators line includes an ARM CPU plus analog capa- offering high frequency and high precision,” bilities such as A/D converters, USB transceiv- ing their value Ohr says. er and voltage regulator,” says Linley Group He cautions, however, that “with Silicon founder Linley Gwennap. “Silicon Labs differ- Clocks, Silicon Labs is moving into promising entiates with a better ADC, capacitive sensors but technically difficult terrain.” Coupling a for touch panels, high-drive analog I/O and MEMS resonator “has a different set of manu- much lower active and sleep current.” facturing challenges,” Ohr says. Gwennap continues, “Most of the compo- Further, the MEMS-based approach is “get- nents Silicon Labs is integrating are useful ting a lot of attention from heavyweights like across a broad range of markets, which IDT, TI and ADI , and even relative new - increases their value. Every design needs an comers like ON Semiconductor,” Ohr says. “It oscillator, most need a voltage regulator and promises to be highly price-competitive in a many need USB. The capacitive sensors allow few short years.” systems to use touch controls instead of push Semico Research’s new report on MEMS buttons. These are becoming increasingly oscillators concludes that the technology popular in consumer electronics, both remains “at a nascent stage” and pegs its size because of their ‘cool’ factor and because they at less than 1 percent of the $6.3 billion tim- eliminate costly and failure-prone buttons.” ing market, but adds that “the potential Recalling how silicon TV tuners languished growth of MEMS oscillators continues to for a decade without taking off, Sayiner pre- attract more vendors. There are currently nine dicts that the Internet of Things will remain a vendors shipping MEMS oscillators. Two niche unless the industry can offer low-cost more have announced they will start shipping low-power solutions (low-battery power or no later in 2012. More are expected to jump into battery necessary) integrated with sensors, this market.” low-power wireless connectivity and other smarts on a single device. The concept “will Mixed-signal MCUs not get adopted in a big way without such a Integrating more mixed-signal components support, because these devices need to go to into MCUs is a big industry trend. “There is every node, including doors, windows, hardly an 8-bit microcontroller out there from thermostats and smoke alarms." any manufacturer that doesn’t have A/D con- What are Silicon Labs’ chances of making a verters on the front and D/A converters on dent in the still largely hypothetical Internet their tail,” notes Ohr. of Things? NXP, for example, has an elaborate 8-bit line Gwennap thinks its chances are good. with the same 80C51 core used by Silicon Labs. “Silicon Labs MCUs reduce system cost by “Where SiLabs has upped the ante on this is integrating analog components. Their low in putting a 16-bit converter on the front of an power, particularly in sleep mode, is ideal for 8-bit controller [taking the data in two stages] battery-powered devices,” he says. “These and a 12-bit converter on the back,” Ohr says. advantages should gain consideration for The structural change is important because12 Silicon Labs, even in the face of established bits is about all the resolution a machine tool MCU competitors such as TI and Freescale.” can handle, “but the extra bits enable process –Junko Yoshida 7
  8. 8. EE|Times Confidential March 2012q EET ON THE QT Safety Concerns Could Stall Countdown for Space Tourists Commercial companies developing spacecraft that could carry thrill Markets seekers to the edge of space or into orbit have been lining up cus- tomers willing to dish out large sums for a heavenly view. With the fledgling industry literally about to take flight, lawmakers The Weak Link in Drone Deployments and regulators need quick responses to emerging issues such as the As regulators try to figure out where unmanned aircraft fit in the safety of space tourists in what is an inherently risky enterprise. Critics nation’s crowded airspace, opposition to the deployment of commer- like space analyst John Pike have warned that space entrepreneurs cial drones is growing on several fronts. Civil liberties groups, includ- such as Elon Musk of SpaceX, Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic ing the Electronic Frontier Foundation, are among those lead- and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin haven’t completed anywhere near the ing the charge against what they view as intrusive “eyes in the sky” amount of rocket and spacecraft testing needed to ensure a measure that could be used for unauthorized surveillance. of crew safety beyond what NASA astronauts can expect. A host of technical issues also must be resolved before the Pike, founder of, argues that space accidents Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to deploy civilian are inevitable and that it is unclear whether a commercial industry can drones can proceed. Among them is how to shield the vital and vul- survive the death of a space tourist. nerable radio-frequency (RF) links that will be used to control drones. Lawmakers are debating safety issues related to space tourism, Communications experts such as Ganesh Gopalakrishnan of the including whether or how the Federal Aviation Administration Optoelectronics Industry Development Association worry (FAA) should work with other federal agencies such as the National that RF links used to control drones could be hacked or otherwise Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop strict interfered with. That could spell disaster for an unmanned aircraft fly- safety standards for commercial space operators. They also are debating ing over a populated area. the sticky issue of liability in the event of an accident. One unresolved “Absolute control over the RF link will be next to impossible from question is whether the government should extend “shared liability and an RF engineers’ perspective and [based on] the technology and indemnification protection” to the commercial spaceflight industry. controls available today,” another worried engineer says. “Can you Much of legislators’ attention is focused on the FAA’s Office of imagine the RF equivalent of the Internet group ‘anonymous’ where Commercial Space Transportation, which, among other things, is charged they break into the RF link and start messing with these drones?” with ensuring the safety of space tourists. In anticipation of coming com- Crashes and mid-air collisions over urban areas are another con- mercial launches, the Obama administration is requesting a 2.6 percent cern, despite FAA assurances that it will take steps to ensure safe increase in the office’s fiscal 2013 budget, to $16.7 million. operation of drones. Drones flying above 400 feet will require FAA Critics worry that the office’s dual role as regulator and promoter of authorization. commercial spaceflight creates a conflict of interest. “The public needs Nevertheless, at least one metropolitan police force has reported a a clear understanding of the risks involved with commercial space crash while testing a drone. The Montgomery County Sherriff’s Office transportation, and it will need to be convinced those risks are being north of Houston confirmed a crash in early March. The prototype effectively managed,” Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) warned during a hear- drone was reportedly 18 feet off the ground when controllers lost ing earlier this month on the FAA office’s budget. contact with it. The drone hit the county SWAT team’s armored vehi- Among the proponents of commercial space tourism, Rep. Steven cle, resulting in “blade strikes,” officials confirmed. –George Leopold Palazzo (R-Miss.), chair of a House space panel, pointed out during the hearing that the FAA office has licensed more than 200 launches since 1989 without a fatality—“which is a notable record in this inherently risky business.” With the list of planned commercial launches of space tourists grow- ing, promoters and skeptics alike will soon find out whether safety regu- lations designed to protect space tourists are sufficient to ensure a happy landing. –George Leopold 8
  9. 9. q EET ON THE QT EE | Times Confidential March 2012 As a result, 5G will focus more on network flexibility and less on whizzy new data rates: “5G needs to be a discussion about providing services flexibly, not new data rates,” Sizer says. “The service needs to be separate from the underlying technology.” Nevertheless, Sizer estimates that 5G’s improvements could boost data rates by a factor of two over LTE, “but I don’t think an order of magnitude is needed as it was with 4G systems. Nuts & Bolts “There’s slight room for improvement, but we have been close to [theoretical limits on maximum data rates] for many years,” he says. Here Come 5G Nets “Improvement [in raw data rates] will require use of small cells and multiple antennas.” –Rick Merritt Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei and a handful of European uni- versities are requesting funds from the European Union to start a new research project on fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks. A decision on whether to fund the proposal is expected this fall. DEALS Though details of the proposal remain secret, researchers are dis- cussing the broad outlines of what such a network would look like. Chinese researchers also are contemplating the outlook for 5G nets, but those talks are less advanced than those in Europe. “It’s still quite early, but for those of us in research it’s the right time Unity Gives Rambus a Horse in the Memory Race to starting thinking about what 5G might mean,” said Tod Sizer, head of wireless research at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs division, in an interview There was a time when Unity Semiconductor was a promising start- with EE Times Confidential. up working on next-generation nonvolatile memory. Like others, however, Only about 9 million of today’s 3.6 billion cellular subscribers are on Unity discovered it was extremely difficult to outflank incumbent NAND the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks now being deployed. flash-memory technology. Nevertheless, Sizer notes, research efforts in Europe and elsewhere led In 2002, Unity began working on a metal-oxide variable-resistor to the definition of today’s 3G and 4G standards. technology called CMOx for use in a cross-point memory. Its plan was The major issue shaping the new wave in cellular is a growing diver- to introduce new memory components as early as 2010. The term sity of devices and services. CMOx was meant to emphasize compatibility with standard CMOS Sizer expects a mixed bag of machine-to-machine communications processes. By August 2010, Unity was forced to abandon its product to generate even more traffic in the next decade than today’s rapidly plans and move to an intellectual-property licensing model. In January growing use of smartphones and tablets. “There will be an explosion of 2011, Micron Technology bailed out the company with an undis- machine-to-machine devices that have no user interface,” he predicts. closed investment. That will include everything from simple wireless sensors to sophisti- Given that history, one wonders why Rambus would pay $35 million cated high-definition video-surveillance networks. Each new device and to acquire Unity. service will have its own set of needs. “A one-minute delay for a tem- Rambus’ memory strategy involved trying to get ahead of the curve perature sensor is acceptable, but in a video call it is not,” Sizer says. to replace DRAM and flash technologies. Former Unity CEO David “You can’t characterize in any shape or form these devices—some will Eggleston, now a Rambus senior vice president of nonvolatile memory need short bursts of information, and some will need a lot.” storage, says Unity realized it would take longer to get memory products New devices and services also will drive significant changes in net- to market. That meant it needed a foster parent to nurture its still- work architecture. For example, voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) on an promising technology. The Rambus deal was a good fit, despite ongoing LTE network can require up to 40 bytes of header information to trans- legal battles between Rambus and Micron. mit a 24-byte chunk of voice data. “The way we set up calls needs to Under terms of the deal, Unity can continue its CMOx joint-develop- be streamlined a great deal to make nets more efficient,” Sizer ment program with Micron. Eggleston makes clear that Rambus isn’t explains. “The amount of control signaling and message passing can’t simply trying to exploit Unity’s patents: 147 granted and others pend- dwarf the actual data sent.” ing, built up over a decade of research. Rather, Rambus is backing In addition, networks will need to “determine what apps are running Unity to continue technology development and create memory intellec- and their requirements, so they can modify themselves.” That implies tual property and cores that it can license to new customers. that next-generation switches and routers “may need to be very differ- Despite the long gestation of its technology, Unity’s advantage in the ent,” Sizer adds. memory market rests with both its materials technology and its com- At the same time, 5G nets could be a more heterogeneous mix of pact cross-point memory cell. Stacked cells are critical when the area cellular and Wi-Fi links, further complicating network architectures. Next- penalty of underlying decode circuitry is added to the equation. generation LTE standards already in the works greatly simplify data "Unity has learned how to build selectivity into the memory cell," sharing between cellular and Wi-Fi nets. says Eggleston, adding that filamentary-resistive RAMs exhibit high-cur- 9
  10. 10. EE|Times Confidential March 2012qEET ON THE QT rent write. “It is limiting this current through a bi-layer in CMOx that Rambus sees as valuable.” The technology is based on the movement of oxygen vacancies in a metal-oxide crystal lattice. However, Unity and Rambus remain quiet about the particular metal-oxide bi-layer materials they are using. Known metal-oxides for ReRAMs, sometimes called memory resistors or RIVALS memristors, include titanium, tantalum and hafnium oxide. Issues surrounding an industrywide transition to ReRAM are made more complex with the upcoming transition to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) The Face of Korea’s Mobile Software Push lithography, needed to write minimum geometries below 20 nano- Meet David C. Park, code jockey. meters. Eggleston says NAND flash could shift to vertical integration David could be mistaken for a model. He’s quick to flash a wide, without going to EUV. That would buy NAND flash some addition time. handsome smile from under a swirl of jet-black hair. A white tie accents Eggleston expects vertical NAND and vertical ReRAM to co-exist in his black shirt, and a black overcoat is tailored to his slim frame. the market. Hewlett-Packard and partner Hynix Semiconductor David is a software research engineer for LG Electronics, one of are aiming to bring their memristor to the market as early as 2013. That some 5,000 mobile software developers in South Korea. He’s the polar prompts Eggleston to predict that “2015 is the time for commercializa- opposite of the stereotypical software nerd: no pocket protector, no tion of ReRAM,” with a 2018 transition to vertical ReRAM. horn-rimmed glasses. Rambus is working with Micron and equipment supplier Applied We bumped into David at the bustling LG stand at the Mobile Materials to develop the right implementation point, number of layers World Congress, where some 60,000 attendees had come to check and atomic-layer-deposition processes to optimize its thin-memory out the latest in cellular gadgets and networks. Park helped lead the oxide layers. design of the software for the Optimus Vu, LG’s latest, greatest smart- “I think its a good buy for Rambus, considering what they got for the phone, showcased front and center at its stand. money,” says Alan Niebel, principal analyst at Web-Feet Research, It’s an impressive handset: Despite the unusually large five-inch dis- which closely tracks the memory market. “I still believe the team that play, the device is just 8.5-millimeters deep. went over to Rambus has a motivation [to succeed].” One of the cool things about the Optimus Vu is its note-taking capa- Niebel adds, however, that it remains unclear whether CMOx or any bility. On any application, users can make annotations with a small sty- other technology can displace flash. “Theyve got two more years of lus, then save their notes, print them and send them as jpegs. The hard work to bring it to production-ready status,” he notes. implementation looked smooth and sophisticated. –Peter Clarke Nearly 20 years ago, note taking was going to be the killer app that ignited a new era in pen computing, spawning a raft of startups with names that played on the words pen, ink or note. It never happened. The hardware was too slow and power hungry, and mobile data net- works were still in their infancy. But nothing ever dies in electronics, and perhaps technology has caught up with digital notes. LG’s archrival Samsung clearly thinks so. It made a big splash with a similar design, the Galaxy Note, unveiled in expensive Super Bowl ads two weeks earlier. The Korean giant promoted it on Barcelona city buses and in a multistory poster on a building outside the entrance to the big mobile show. Who had the idea first is inconsequential. The point is that Korean code jockeys such as David Park are plugged in and trying to push the boundaries of what’s next in mobile. Their level of style and sophistica- tion should be raising eyebrows in Cupertino. –Rick Merritt 10
  11. 11. qVC WATCH EE|Times Confidential March 2012 Startup Says Its Silicon Oscillator Beats Crystals, MEMS British fabless-chip startup eoSemi is sam- grammable ICs. Until 2009, eoSemi was pling a CMOS replacement for kilohertz self funded. Since then, eoSemi has Codes that are crystal oscillators while disclosing details received $4.5 million in venture capital of its technology. from NESTA Investments, Capital-E and specific to each The company is targeting 32-kHz crystal Enterprise Ventures. oscillators used in mobile phones, where The founders took a deliberate approach eoSemi engineers believe it can offer +/–30 to identifying and developing the technolo- device are ppm or better accuracy over a wide temper- gy. The resulting ATOC technology looks ature range. The devices require only like a particular application of a digitally programmed microamps of current and can provide sig- controlled analog circuit. nificant space and cost savings. Rather than striving for perfect silicon, into nonvolatile Though harmonic oscil- eoSemi focuses on sensing lator circuits can be fabri- and then compensating cated in silicon, the mate- for performance changes memory on the rial produces wide varia- based on temperature and tions in material proper- physical stresses within a die during man- ties, ultimately resulting device. The fundamental in variations in frequency; circuit design allows the ufacturing such circuits have a ten- oscillator’s output fre- dency to drift against tem- quency to be tuned in real perature or in response to time, compensating for stresses in transistors that drift over the device’s life- make up the circuit. time. The calibration Hence, it is common prac- Ian Macbeth occurs during manufactur- tice to include separate, ing: Codes specific to each more precise oscillators based on the piezo- device are programmed into nonvolatile electric effect in crystal materials. Most memory on the die. consumer devices use at least one quartz The device draws 8 microamps in active crystal oscillator to provide basic reference mode and delivers an accuracy of under signals that drive digital clock circuits and +/–30 ppm over an operating temperature other necessary timing and frequency ref- range of –40 to +85°C. That means the tim- erences. But current oscillators are bulky. ing reference complies with system-design In response, eoSemi has developed a requirements of major 3G handset manufac- technology it calls ATOC, for accurate tim- turers, the company notes. The primary ing oscillator circuit. ATOC is designed to oscillator is a fairly conventional, harmonic replace bulky quartz crystals with an IC RC circuit, according to Macbeth. Keeping implemented in 180-nanometer mixed-sig- power low was again the challenge, he adds, nal CMOS that is smaller and easier to inte- along with the rigorous application of best grate, uses less power and costs less than manufacturing practices. C O N T A C T eoSemi Ltd. competing products. “The crystal oscillator is a space hog,” Somerford Business Court The company was formed in November explains Steve Cliffe, the company’s vice Congleton 2005 by chip industry veteran Ian Macbeth, president of sales and marketing. “The Cheshire who serves as CEO, and three colleagues; crystal is a single-function timing compo- CW12 4SN fellow co-founder Adrian Bratt holds down nent that consumes disproportionate United Kingdom the post of vice president of engineering. board space in a phone. It is a costly and Tel: +44 1260 285880 Both worked for Anadigm and Pilkington problematic dinosaur.” Microelectronics, developers of field-pro- A crystal oscillator plus decoupling 11
  12. 12. EE|Times Confidential March 2012qVC WATCHBreakdown of $4 Billion Quartz Market in 2011 timing market, but the company’s technology is equally applicable to Commercial the megahertz frequencies, compa- ny executives claim. Mobile-phone production makers have long been seeking such a solution. using a chip- Macbeth stresses that eoSemi is a product company rather than an IP licensor. Nonetheless, the mobile- scale 1.5-mm- handset market is notoriously diffi- Source: CS&A Xtal & Oscillators Market Report cult to crack. After consulting with square pack- phone manufacturers, eoSemi con- capacitors can consume more than 70 nected with foundry giant Taiwan age will start in square millimeters of board space, versus 5 Semiconductor Manufacturing to fabricate square millimeters for some solutions parts for supply partners that will brand based on microelectromechanical systems the products on behalf of eoSemi. the third quar- (MEMS). The eoSemi chip takes up 2 The first product based on its ATOC tech- square millimeters. nology is a 32-kHz timing-reference circuit ter of 2012 In addition, the company has designed designated SO32768. Commercial produc- its first product to be a drop-in replacement tion using a chip-scale package measuring for crystal oscillators, so that no significant 1.5 by 1.5 mm will start in the third quarter electrical redesign is needed. “It can go in of 2012. the same package as a processor,” says The company “has made remarkable Macbeth, adding that this could reduce progress in commercializing its technology chip-real-estate cost to zero. so quickly,” industry analyst Mark Competing silicon oscillators are typical- Sherwood said in a statement. “The market ly less accurate and draw more current, has waited a long time for silicon oscilla- while MEMS-based products are targeted at tors. Now it seems that the launch of com- the megahertz-frequency market. MEMS mercial products may be closer than we draw milliamps, and require two dice that thought possible.” increase cost, Cliffe says. The startup employs 12 engineers and is The quartz-timing-component market is set to begin manufacturing its first product estimated at about $4 billion for 2011 by after burning through a meager $5 million market researcher Consulting Associates & in venture funding. Though the venture- Services (Cupertino, Calif.). Oscillators capital markets remain “brutal,” Macbeth operating at 32 kHz for timing applications says eoSemi is continuing to raise more accounted for about $800 million; the money to build out its business. “The B megahertz-frequency-oscillator-component series is not what it used to be,” he says. market totals about $1.7 billion. “People now not only expect a revenue The initial focus at eoSemi is the 32-kHz stream but also profitability.” –Peter Clarke The $497 annual subscription price is for individuals, not for distribution to a department or a company. Subscribers are prohibited from photocopying, e-mailing or otherwise trans- mitting the PDF by any other means. Group subscriptions are available. To subscribe, please go to Questions? Contact us at or 516-562-5843 12
  13. 13. qMARKET DATA EE|Times Confidential March 2012 MEMS Fabs Expand in Europe, Middle East Europe and the Middle East remain centers of diver- In addition, European companies are driving sified micro manufacturing, distinguished by emerging printed-electronics technology, with 24 their concentration of leading R&D centers, sites at some stage of preproduction. Though diverse range of small and midsize enterprises these are not yet production sites, they do repre- and their focus on emerging growth markets. The sent a selection of companies that are likely to be region has 316 fabs spread across 32 countries the future producers of these technologies. from Morocco to Estonia, dominated by power Europe’s high-volume IC makers include electronics and MEMS, according to Yole numerous companies manufacturing at advanced- Développement’s recent survey of the manufac- process nodes, including 10 chip makers operating turing infrastructure, “European and Middle East 12-inch wafer lines and six that are producing Microelectronics Database 2011.” devices at the 45-nanometer node. Though much of Europe’s semiconductor pro- At the same time, the region continues to drive duction remains in mainstream CMOS and ana- innovation with its micro-manufacturing- log ICs (with more than 50 fabs), a significant por- research efforts, with 36 major R&D centers across tion of the region’s business focuses on specialty Europe and the Middle East working both on next- growth markets, such as power semiconductors generation IC technology and on other silicon and and MEMS, along with R&D and pilot production compound-semiconductor technologies. Several of for next-generation technologies. these research centers have pilot lines for emerg- The European region is particularly strong in ing technologies; these centers are starting to offer power-semiconductor production, which foundry services for low- and medium-volume accounts for 75 fabs, or almost 25 percent of the production for niche emerging markets, which regional total. The sector, which includes diodes, thyristors, MOSFETs, insulated-gate bipolar tran- sistors, power ICs and power modules, has MEMS Landscape for Europe, matured to support the large European trans- Middle East, Africa portation market. Demand for reducing power consumption is creating opportunities and healthy growth for more efficient power manage- ment in everything from smartphones and TVs to Total number of wafer lines in EMEA region: 360 solar inverters and hybrid electric vehicles. The region also is a center of MEMS expertise, European fabs dedicated to MEMS: 56 with 56 MEMS fabs. Though MEMS sites in Europe outnumber semiconductor fabs, IC vol- MEMS R&D centers in Europe, Middle East: 36 umes remain larger. Still, sales of MEMS devices hit roughly $10 billion in 2011 and should post about 15 percent average compound annual growth, to about $20 billion by 2016, according to Yole estimates. As the technology becomes easier to use in everything from location-aware search to energy efficiency to pathogen identification, systems makers of all kinds are finding more MEMS sensor applications. (Yole’s database includes biomedical MEMS products made on sili- con and glass, but not microfluidics on polymer.) Source: Yole Développement 13
  14. 14. qMARKET DATA EE|Times Confidential March 2012 will better utilize their facilities and in the region. Ranked by total clean-room improve their manufacturing expertise. area, however, Italy replaces the U.K. in the Despite the large number of power-elec- top three. tronics and MEMS makers, the majority of Yole’s study of the European and Middle fabs still use 6-inch or smaller wafers. The East fab infrastructure also draws on data majority are also small and midsize busi- compiled by the SEMI industry group’s nesses, with 80 to 85 percent of the fab sites “World Fab Watch.” Readers should note employing fewer than 500 workers. that the combined data includes more total Despite the proliferation of small fabs types of fab lines than total production across the region, the big economies of sites, because companies often maintain Western Europe still dominate the busi- different types of lines at the same site. ness. Germany, France and the U.K. account –Jérôme Mouly, technology and market ana- for roughly 50 percent of total wafer lines lyst, Yole Développement EE Times Confidential Presents Special Report: MEMS Database and Report Includes a database of over 200 companies working in the MEMS sector BUY NOW 14