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Major players eye combo GPON/gateway chips

Posted: 03 Mar 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:GPON  GbE  voice processor 

Iamba Networks is jumping into a thicket of rivals in fibre-to-the-home chips, all of them with more-integrated silicon either sampling or in design. Indeed, all the other major players have—or plan to have—ICs that serve as combo gigabit passive optical networks (GPON) terminal and home gateway.

Conexant Systems Inc. and PMC-Sierra Inc. have such chips now. BroadLight plans to roll one out in April, and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. says it will follow sometime in 2009.

PMC-Sierra announced an IC designed to power a combined GPON terminal and residential gateway system. Like all these designs, it has a GPON media-access controller (MAC), voice processor and router. The 4W chip supports three GbE ports and two USB 2.0 ports, and it could be in production in about two months.

The company got into PON chips with the May 2006 acquisition of startup Passave, which pioneered the market for gigabit-class Ethernet PONs in Japan. PMC has rolled out a first-generation GPON chip that Passave had in design when it was purchased.

Integrating USB
Conexant was the first to market with a combined GPON/gateway chip, launching its Xenon III last year. Like the PMC chip, it sports three GbE MACs, but it lacks any USB ports, in part because Conexant believes it will be initially deployed in boxes outside the home. "As the units move from outdoor to indoor models, we will look at integrating USB," said Pranay Aiya, a director of marketing at Conexant. PON is a natural outgrowth of Conexant's longstanding work in ADSL and VDSL chips. The company launched its Xenon I for BPON about two years ago, and it is being used by Alcatel-Lucent.

A guide to the GPON chip players: Growing chorus of silicon makers foresees ramp up starting late this year. (Click to view full table)

"Our competitors are leaping into the single-box residential gateway, but this market hasn't taken off yet, because carriers are still deploying a two-box solution," said Dan Parsons, VP of marketing at BroadLight, a startup that was early to the GPON market. The 90nm device will support up to five GbE ports as well as USB 2.0. It will fit in a 19-by-19mm BGA package and dissipate about 1W, Parsons said. The company also supplies GPON and BPON chips for back-end carrier systems. The GPON version is a four-port ASIC that consumes about 4W.

Freescale rounds out the major competitors with a basic GPON chip that has been available for nearly two years using two E300 PowerPC cores and a DSP for voice processing. Next year, the company plans to launch an integrated version for gateways. It will support up to five gigabit ports and two USB 2.0 ports, and dissipate about 4.5W. The new chip will upgrade from an SC1400 to an SC3000 Starcore DSP. "All carriers are currently deploying terminals outside the home, but in our next generation we will have cost reductions and introduce residential gateway functions," said Suhail Agwani, a marketing and business development manager in Freescale's networking and multimedia group.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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