TOKYO ( ChipWire) -- In an attempt to hasten its move into asynchronous digital subscriber line (ADSL) before rivals become too entrenched, NEC Corp. has joined forces with U.S.-based Integrated Telecom Express Inc., or Itex, a company with high marks for ADSL interoperability, according to NEC, and well-established relations with DSL standards leaders, NEC said today.
As part of the announcement, NEC said it is sampling a 100-MHz MIPS-based network controller CPU intended for small office/home office routers. The µPD98501 chip includes an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) cell processor, a communication device-class USB controller and two 10/100-megabit-per-second Ethernet controllers.
The device, set to go into mass production in July, will be part of a chip set that NEC and Itex are expected to deliver this fall, an NEC spokesman said. The two companies will also propose ADSL reference designs for modems, routers, gateways and other Internet access devices
NEC, which has been trying to gain a foothold in the U.S. and European ADSL markets since last year, said the Itex partnership will allow it to quickly meet interoperability requirements across many markets. Itex, based in Santa Clara, Calif., which was spun out of Integrated Technology Express of Hsinchu, Taiwan, in 1998, has formed relationships with other high-profile chip makers, including United Microelectronics Corp., a principal investor and foundry partner, and Intel Corp., which also has an ownership stake in Itex.
NEC's relationship with Itex is limited to joint product development. A big reason for the NEC-Itex alliance is that Itex's technology has been shown to be interoperable among various DSL standards.
Itex's ADSL technology is compatible with ANSI T1.413 Issue 2, ITU G.dmt and G.Lite, and has passed a comprehensive interoperability test with all major DSL access multiplexers (DSLAMs) conducted by the University of New Hampshire.
"Itex has all these interoperability issues sorted out so it makes sense to work with them," an NEC spokesman said.
The spokesman also cited Itex's relationship with Alcatel, with which it will develop interoperable products. "The fact is that the market is standardizing around Alcatel, and Itex has an Alcatel frontend," he said.
DSL has gotten off to a slow start in Japan due to interoperability problems with ISDN lines here. But with some 7 million DSL lines coming on stream in the United States alone, NEC can't afford to stand by and watch competitors take the market if it ever wants to have a strong DSL presence, the spokesman said.
Last year, NEC introduced its internally-developed Sleigh ADSL chip set, which consists of a physical layer, analog front-end and network controller based on its VR4120 processor. But it will take a year to a year-and-a-half before that chip set can show comprehensive interoperability, the NEC spokesman said.
"This doesn't mean we're giving up on our own chip sets, but the market right now is for cheap and broad bandwidth, the kind used for smaller offices," he said.
With the interoperability issue addressed, NEC expects put its network processor up against other architectures that have gotten a head start in ADSL, such as the ARM or PowerPC processors. When NEC reorganized its chip division last year, it put networking applications at the top of its list of areas where it needed to improve.
The company's µPD98501 will support ATM Adaption Layer 2 for voice-over-DSL with 16 voice channels in parallel with Internet data access. The dual-channel Ethernet controller can be used in a typical SoHo router application, NEC said, where one channel connects to a WAN Web server and the other to a firewall-protected LAN.