SBN is taking a look back at some of the big and more unusual news events of the past in a weekly series called "Memory Refresh".
Three years ago Conexant announced a silicon-germanium process technology that it said would help it compete in wireless and networking applications. A continuation of that technology strand now owned by Jazz Semiconductor is being provided to a manufacturing venture based in Shanghai, China (see January 31 story ).
The following article first appeared on SBN's website on January 26, 2000.
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. January 26, 2000 -- Conexant Systems Inc. here today announced an enhanced silicon-germanium (SiGe) process technology that has been developed to maximize circuit switching speeds for wireless and networking applications while maintaining low power dissipation. The new technology adds SiGe epitaxy and deep-trench process modules to Conexant's existing 0.35-micron BiCMOS process without increasing the number of mask steps to produce ICs.
The announcement comes one week after rival Texas Instruments Inc. announced an optimized SiGe BiCMOS process, based on a 0.35-micron CMOS technology. TI's process is optimized for radio-frequency applications. Conexant maintains it will beat TI into volume production with the introduction of SiGe products, based on the new 0.35-micron process, in about six months. TI plans to ramp its SiGe technology into volume production in the third quarter this year.
Conexant said its combination of process technologies will enhance device performance while keeping production costs low with the same number of mask steps as in conventional BiCMOS. The company said its enhanced technology is capable of simultaneously producing both 3.3- and 5-volt SiGe bipolar transistors. A variety of passive components can also be included in the SiGe process to create highly integrated RF designs, according to Conexant.
Prototypes of SiGe devices are now operating a maximum cut-off frequencies of 50 GHz for 3.3-V transistors and 70-GHz for 2.5-V devices, said Conexant. The company claimed these prototypes require 50% less power than competing technologies for 2-GHz wireless circuits.
Last week, TI said its RFSiGe-1 process will achieve one-third less power consumption that any announced SiGe process when serving RF application up to 2.5-GHz frequencies. The Dallas company is expecting to ship prototypes of its first SiGe ICs to two major cellular phone manufacturers in the next several months. Standard SiGe products for wireless applications will be announced in the second half of 2000.
Conexant said its SiGe process technology portfolio also includes 0.15-micron CMOS technology as well as a mixture of RF and bipolar devices. "Conexant has taken a unique approach with our SiGe process," claimed James Spoto, senior vice president of Conexant's Platform Technologies group. "By exploiting our proven expertise in BiCMOS technology, we have developed an advanced SiGe process that provides superior power efficiency in wireless and high-speed networking applications.
"Several manufacturers are adopting SiGe process technology and validating its importance for next-generation communications semiconductor design, and we are pleased that we will be the second company to enter volume production," added Spoto, referring to Conexant's claim of joining IBM Corp. in ramping up fabrication of silicon-germanium ICs for commercial applications.