Mindspeed, Terawave join to enter GPON SoC space

FEBRUARY 26, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- The two companies expect to have a device for ONTs available for sampling in the second half of this year.

FEBRUARY 26, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- Chipmaker Mindspeed Technologies Inc. (search for Mindspeed) and PON systems developer Terawave Communications (search for Terawave) will partner to join what promises to become a significantly more crowded supplier pool for GPON system on chips (SoCs). The two companies expect to have a device for ONTs available for sampling in the second half of this year.

In an interview last week, Preet Virk, vice president of marketing for the multi-service access unit at Mindspeed, and Ross Ivett, vice president of product marketing at Terawave, said the collaboration will include both co-development and joint marketing. Unlike the Freescale/Alcatel-Lucent pairing, in which Alcatel-Lucent was to receive a period of exclusive access to an SoC developed with Freescale, the device that results from this new collaboration will be available to the general market more or less immediately. (Ivett half-jokingly expressed the hope that Terawave might get better pricing, however.)

Virk emphasized more than once that the pairing represented a true collaboration, rather than a case of Mindspeed bolting some Terawave IP onto one of Mindspeed's chips. The chipmaker will bring IP and expertise garnered largely through chips developed for the Japanese GEPON market. In particular, Virk said his company's expertise in providing carrier-class voice capabilities, particularly voice over IP, as well as hardware/software co-design and high-performance analog will help differentiate the new SoC, particularly when joined with Terawave's contribution. The system house's end of the bargain includes expertise in GPON MAC implementations, application knowledge, and links with the market in general and service providers in particular.

The upcoming device, which will be called the Comcerto 200, will integrate GPON PMA (SerDes), optical interface, and ITU-T G.984.3 (2.488-Gbit/sec downstream/1.244-Gbit/sec upstream) MAC functions with support for dynamic bandwidth allocation, AES, and forward error correction. It also will include an approximately 8-Gbit/sec nonblocking Ethernet/GEM switch, two Gigabit Ethernet MACs, and an ARM11-based CSP/MSP. It also will include hooks to SLIC/SLACs, IP/data service chips, and GiGE dongles, IPTV devices, or chips that support TDM business services. The SoC will support IPTV HW-IGMPv3 snooping and proxy. The chip will have some onboard memory, but will require some external memory for full operation.

Full details of the device, including power consumption, will not be released until the official roll out later this year. However, the companies say that the chip will support rate-controlled Internet access at speeds up to 100 Mbits/sec.

While the chip won't be the first to market, "I believe we'll be the first to market with the right solution," Virk asserted. With Freescale tied up with Alcatel-Lucent, Broadlight was the first company to offer GPON chips, including the BL2000 ONT SoC, to the market at large. Broadlight claims widespread success for its offerings -- it touted 25 design wins for its GPON technology last May -- but Virk and Ivett assert that many GPON system suppliers with Tier 1 accounts and/or aspirations (their list included Motorola, Siemens, and Hitachi) are using either ASICs or FPGA-based approaches. Virk said that the Minspeed/Terawave device will provide significantly more functionality than Broadlight's current offering and predicted that it will also outstrip devices expected to reach the market later this year from companies such as Infineon, PMC Sierra, and Conexant.

Terawave, obviously, intends to use the chip as soon as possible. Ivett says that one early application will be ONTs the company is supplying to Fujitsu for use in BT's 21st Century Network upgrade.

The two companies will offer an ONT reference design featuring the new device. Until that time, they have announced a reference design available now that uses existing chips and software.

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