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National Semiconductor Inc, convinced that 10/100Mb Ethernet is the preferred option for local area networks and that Ethernet switches are rapidly replacing repeaters, has launched what it claims is the lowest power single-chip fast Ethernet physical layer and transceiver, the Phyter, which it hopes will keep the company at the top of the market. It will also jointly announce today with Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Broadcom Corp and Texas Instruments Inc, a jointly developed specification for a Reduced Media Independent Interface, the connection between 10/100Mbps Ethernet physical layer interface devices and switch silicon. The new specification calls for six pins per port instead of the current standard of 16, which should make it cheaper and easier to build network switching systems. The Phyter combines the previous physical layer Phy and Twister BiCMOS 0.8micron chips in a single CMOS 0.5micron chip, which is both smaller and consumes less power. The company says the Phyter will enable hub and switch vendors such as 3Com Corp, Cisco Inc and Bay Networks Inc to make switches and hubs with higher port density. National Semiconductor says at the moment, most switch vendors produce their own ASICs, Application Specific Integrated Circuits, each of which is slightly different. NatSemi provides the physical layer, which with the Phyter is now presented on a single chip. By next year, the company expects to start providing complete systems on a chip, with the ASIC and Phyter integrated. The Phyter will be manufactured at NatSemi’s new fabrication plant in South Portland, Maine (CI No 3,221).

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