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  1. Technology
October 12, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Corp’s Microelectronics division is shipping what it describes as seven basic building blocks for applications specific integrated circuits built in its silicon germanium (SiGe) manufacturing process which are destined for use in new generations of highly-integrated wireless and other communications devices. It is already shipping parts to partners such as AMCC, Hughes Electronics, Harris Semiconductor, Northern Telecom and Tektronix Inc. National Semiconductor Corp is notably absent from the list following the cancellation of its Cyrix unit’s iAPX-86 microprocessor relationship with IBM. The seven chips – some of which can directly replace existing Gallium Arsenide parts – have been designed for low-noise amplifiers, voltage controlled oscillators, power amplifiers and discrete transistors. SiGe is three-to-five times quicker than current generation silicon, and the power consumption is two times lower. It offers higher densities than gallium arsenide, and can operate at speeds greater than 100GHz. Semiconductors can be manufactured cost- effectively in existing silicon fabrication facilities. IBM Microelectronics has worked on the process research in conjunction with the IBM Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York since the early 1980s. It’s important for IBM that the SiGe process puts its nose at the front of the pack as ASICs are expected the growth of its flourishing Microelectronics business which can now offer a variety of processor cores and manufacturing processes (CI No 3,357). IBM says a second generation of SiGe parts are being designed around the technologies from its $180m wireless semiconductor acquisition CommQuest Technologies Inc. They will be used in next-generation devices combining email, phone, internet access and global positioning functions. IBM expects CommQuest to generate $1bn new revenues for it by 2002. IBM says it is also working with Leica Geosystems to produce SiGe parts for global positioning systems and will extend the use of SiGe to other non-wireless markets including fiber optic networks.

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