Providing a sneak preview of its broadband and telecommunications chip roadmap for 1999, Level One Communications Inc. plans to enter or expand in several new and large IC markets, including E1/TI, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), SONET/SDH, and wireless.
Level One-a fabless IC design house in Sacramento, Calif., known primarily for its Ethernet LAN offerings-is now looking to broaden its scope in the telecom, or WAN, IC business. The company hopes to become a major provider of "end-to-end solutions in the telecommunications market,'' said Michael Ricci, vice president of Level One's Telecom Business Unit.
Level One's total sales in 1997 were $156.3 million, 30% of which was generated by the company's telecom IC business.
"It makes sense for Level One to expand its telecom product portfolio, especially since the LAN and WAN markets are converging,'' said Richard Faust, an analyst with Kaufman Bros. LP, New York.
Among the priorities for Level One's telecom-IC business in 1999 is DSL. For some time, the company has been talking about a new high-speed Internet-access technology called high-bit-rate DSL-2 (HDSL-2), which promises to deliver symmetric data at 1.544 Mbits/s.
Level One claims HDSL-2 technology is less expensive than both traditional T1 lines and the plain-vanilla HDSL products used in the market today. HDSL uses two pairs of copper wires to transmit data at 1.544 Mbits/s, while HDSL-2 requires only one pair to transmit at that rate.
The company is currently sampling its HDSL-2 chipset-a three-chip solution consisting of a framer IC, an analog front-end chip, and a data pump-but it has not officially announced the product.
Surprisingly, Level One is also active in a competing camp-Asymmetrical DSL (ADSL). The company is working on an analog front-end IC for both ADSL and G.Lite applications, according to Ricci. "ADSL has been around a long time and is getting a lot of attention, but we're also bullish about symmetrical DSL."
Another major effort for Level One is a move into SONET/SDH. While the company will continue to develop its legacy E1/T1 chip products, next year it plans to roll out a line of high-speed SONET/
SDH transceivers capable of 2.5-Gbit/s (OC-48) data transmission.
Level One is entering the wireless market as well. "We're starting to develop products in the 900-MHz space, but we're also looking at the 1.9-GHz area,'' Ricci said without elaborating.