DALLAS -- Interface logic competitors Texas Instruments Inc. and National Semiconductor Corp. today announced a partnership to help launch a new backplane technology--called Multipoint Low-Voltage Differential Signaling--into the marketplace after standards for M-LVDS were set late last year.
According to TI and National Semiconductor, the new M-LVDS specification increases the signaling rates five times over existing single-ended backplane technologies. The M-LVDS extends the scope of LVDS interfaces, which were introduced in the middle 1990s and incorporated on a range of ASICs, programmable logic ICs as well as stand alone devices.
The two companies said they have agreed to produce compatible M-LVDS interface devices with three common footprints. TI and National promise to compete head-on in these and future products to help drive down the price of M-LVDS while providing multiple sources for initial standard devices.
The new M-LVDS standard is "very much like LVDS, but it is targeted at multipoint applications," explained Mark Sauerwald, interface product marketing manager for National Semiconductor. "These are typically going into backplane systems, although we can also see it being used in some sort of cable interface system--something like IEEE 1394 Firewire or USB busing via cable."
The M-LVDS specification, now designated TIA/EIA-899, is designed to support data signaling rates up to 500 megabits-per-second, while increasing protection against electromagnetic interference (EMI) and supporting low-power operation. The recently approved industry spec supports up to 32 nodes on a shared bus for speeds up to 500 Mbit/sec.
Dallas-based TI has already introduced its first M-LVDS devices--differential line drivers and receivers--and National Semiconductor in Santa Clara, Calif., plans to roll out its first compatible products in the first quarter of 2002. Both TI and National were early suppliers of LVDS interface devices in the mid-90s, and the companies are aiming to expand their market share into multipoint applications, which are largely telecom and data communications systems with big backplanes supporting large number of cards.
Up until now, TI and National have separately pursued multipoint LVDS applications with their own designs, introduced prior to the setting of the TIA/EIA specification last fall. TI's series has been called LVDM and National's has called its existing multipoint devices "Bus LVDS," but now the two will supply common footprint products in three groups of interfaces.
TI and National managers told SBN that the LVDS marketplace had grown to "a couple hundred million dollars" before the 2001 downturn, with annual growth rates as high as the 50% range prior to the industry slowdown. The companies estimate that they hold a combined 80% market share in stand-alone LVDS devices. Competition includes Fairchild Semiconductor, Maxim, and others. More highly integrated ASICs and programmable logic devices also contain LVDS interfaces.
As much as half of the LVDS applications could be served by the new multipoint spec, said David Gagnon, interface product marketing manager at TI.
"We are starting alliance with three families, or popular footprints," Gagnon said. "There is no agreement past this point, and so we are going to be introducing our own products, according to our own customer base requirements. We will definitely see differentiation coming into play after those three footprints have been introduced."
National and TI are producing their M-LVDS products with their own versions of 0.35-micron CMOS processes.