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Monday, January 24, 2005
TI integrates cell phone tasks on one chip

Texas Instruments expected to announce that it has integrated most of the computing functions of a mobile phone onto a single microchip, an innovation that may lead to lower manufacturing costs and improvements like longer battery life and higher data transfer rates.

The company plans to have the more integrated semiconductor widely available by the middle of 2006, making it the first major manufacturer to produce an integrated cell phone chip for the mass market, according to industry analysts.

At present, the components of a mobile phone include numerous specialized chips that control functions like sending and receiving radio frequencies, managing power and overseeing the phone's basic computing functions.

"This isn't an incremental step," said Bill Krenik, manager of wireless advanced architectures for Texas Instruments. "It's a big leap forward."

Instruments is not the only company to have integrated much of that technology on a single chip. Last November, Qualcomm said it had developed integrated technology. However, its product may be in the mass market somewhat later than the Texas Instruments technology, said Alex Slawsby, an industry analyst with IDC, a research firm. Qualcomm said its chip would be available in the second half of 2006.

Slawsby said that the advantage of such chips might come initially in the production of inexpensive entry-level phones. The integrated chip, Slawsby said, would allow phone manufacturers to more quickly and cheaply produce handsets that could be sold to emerging markets.

Despite the advances toward integration of functions onto a single chip, some will remain separate. Specifically, the major chipmakers have not yet figured out how to economically integrate the memory, a specialized chip that stores phone numbers and other information.

A significant advancement is that the technology integrates two basic chips, Krenik said, the one that controls sending and receiving radio frequencies and the one that controls basic computing functions.

From New York Times

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