SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Intel Corp.'s efforts to conquer the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) chip market is in limbo, SBN has learned.
The Santa Clara semiconductor giant has quietly scrapped a line of consumer-orient DSL chips, while also acknowledging that its entire DSL-chip program is "up in the air."
The disclosure is a blow for Intel, which is scrambling to get a foothold in the communications chip space in order to offset a slowdown in PCs.
At one time, Intel viewed the exploding DSL chip market as a critical piece in its communications strategy. In February 2000, Intel entered the DSL-chip market by acquiring Ambient Technologies Inc. of Fremont, Calif. for $150 million in cash (see Feb. 3 story).
Ambient, a spin-off of Cirrus Logic Inc., was better known for its development of analog-oriented, V.90-complaint chips. But Ambient also announced a line of standalone chips based on an ADSL technology called G.Lite. And, the company was working on a chip based on full-rate, ADSL technology, it was noted.
But neither Ambient nor Intel ever shipped the G.Lite chip, which is a stripped-down version of full-rate ADSL technology. G.Lite transports data at speeds up to 1.5-megabits-per-second, while the full-rate ADSL standard moves information at 8-megabits-per second.
"The G.Lite PHY (physical-layer chip) was never shipped," acknowledged a spokesman from Intel in Santa Clara.
It is unclear if Intel will ever ship the unannounced full-rate, ADSL chip in the market as well. "Our DSL efforts are up in the air right now," the spokesman said. "There have not been any products announcements from us."
In some respects, however, Intel is not given up in DSL. The company will continue to sell a line of high-speed DSL modems, but those products are based on a competitive chip set from GlobeSpan Inc., it was noted.
Intel's move to scrap its G.Lite chip efforts comes as no surprise to analysts. In fact, G.Lite has been a major fiasco in the market. Several companies, including Infineon, STMicroelectronics, and others, have either scrapped or de-emphasized their respective standalone G.Lite chip line.
Most companies are also reporting little or no demand for G.Lite. Developed in 1998 by Compaq Computer Corp., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., G.Lite originally was supposedto hit the mass markets in late 1999, but the technology has yet to appear.
G.Lite was envisioned as a low-cost, always-on technology that could be easily deployed to the masses. Unlike ADSL, G.Lite does not require the installation of a "splitter" at the home to separate the phone and data services that traverse a shared line.
But G.Lite encountered major problems in field tests, due in part to compatibility issues among chip and equipment suppliers. Data-connection rates were also hindered, due in part to the poor quality of copper wiring in most households.
And signaling problems between the phone line and the modem forced carriers to install an expensive passive component, called a "micro-filter," in every phone jack.
On the other hand, there is huge demand for full-rate ADSL technology in the market. Nearly every major U.S. carrier is offering full-rate ADSL technology.