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Electronics News Digest

19 November 2003 News Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Local uninterruptible power supply manufacturer, Meissner, says it has seen an 11% growth in sales for the first part of 2003 and is set to improve on the 38% growth achieved for the whole of last year. Meissner attributes this largely to the fact that it has streamlined its business practices. "Although we have experienced a difficult market this year, as a result of the Rand strengthening against the Dollar, we have achieved an 11% growth for the first part of 2003 compared to the same time last year," said Graham Beyleveld, Meissner sales director. He attributes Meissner's growth to the fact that it has adopted a more direct approach toward marketing its products.

Grintek Telecom has signed a partnership agreement with Cybercom International to distribute its latest Power Line Communications (PLC) solution into Africa. The agreement covers sales, implementation, support and training. PLC enables the distribution of voice and data traffic using special modems, which connect directly to existing electricity distribution networks, using the power lines to carry IP (Internet Protocol) signals. The architecture currently offers a bandwidth of 45 Mbps. The Tshwane Municipality has purchased the InovaTech DS2 solution as a pilot system as part of its ongoing investigation into new technologies.

Allied Technologies Limited, (Altech), has been honoured by the Corporate Research Foundation and Computing SA as a joint winner of their Top ICT Companies in SA research survey. The other joint winner was Hewlett-Packard.

Landis+Gyr has won a major contract to supply the Utila Power Company (UPCO) with Cashpower Form 2S prepayment meters in Central America. Honduras, the central American nation bordering the Caribbean, includes the picturesque Bay Islands of Utila, Roat n and Guanaja. The contract was awarded through Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group (TVIG), which handled implementation for UPCO. Additionally, the City of Cape Town recently implemented Landis+Gyr's latest technology common-base prepayment electricity meters, the Cashpower Sabre model. The City of Cape Town required a specific range of serial numbers for the meters that was compatible with its database system. An advantage of the meter's plug-in base is that it can be installed separately to the meter and the meter then fitted later.

Grintek Aviation Systems has received a contract for an instrument landing system (ILS) for the Seychelles International Airport. The contract consists of the delivery, installation and commissioning of a Normarc 7000B ILS from Park Air Systems of Norway. Grintek says that the landing system essentially works by means of a localiser situated at the end of the runway that indicates the landing path in azimuth as well as a glide path transmitter, which indicates if the aircraft is descending on the correct path. Distance and rate of approach is determined via a transponder on the ground and an interrogator on the aircraft. Grintek has supplied similar technology to a number of major SA airports and Matsapha Airport in Swaziland.

The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality has awarded its annual tender for the supply of two-way radio equipment to Motorola. Some 574 portable and mobile handsets have been provided for the Metropolitan police, emergency services, sanitation, electricity, water and road works by Motorola authorised dealer Olympic Communications.

RF Design, with an established presence in Gauteng and Cape Town has opened a new branch in Durban to better serve customers in the KwaZulu-Natal region. Hannes Pottas has been appointed Durban branch manager. Contact details are: tel: 031 904 3528, fax: 031 904 3843, cell: 082 907 9902, hannes@rfdesign.co.za.

Overseas

Business

Infineon Technologies announced its results for fiscal year 2003, with revenues of Euro 6,15 bn. Infineon said it achieved profitability after nine quarters of net losses. The revenues were equivalent to an increase of 26% compared to the previous fiscal year. 2003 net loss was Euro 435m, reduced from a Euro 1,02 bn loss in the prior year. EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) showed a loss of Euro 299m, significantly improved from an EBIT loss of Euro 1,14 bn in fiscal year 2002. Total revenues for Q4 were Euro 1,76 bn, up 19% sequentially and 37% year-on-year. Net income amounted to Euro 49m, compared to a net loss of Euro 116m in the previous quarter and a loss of Euro 506m in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2002. EBIT earnings of Q4 were Euro 67m, compared to a loss of Euro 116m for the previous quarter and a loss of Euro 295m for the 2002 fourth quarter.

International Rectifier has reported net income of $19,8m for the fiscal first quarter, excluding charges for severance and restructuring activities previously announced, on revenues of $234,1m. Including the above charges of $4,0m, IR posted a net income of $16,7m for Q1 compared to net income of $13,2m including the $3,8m charge in the June quarter. For the fiscal first quarter ended September 2002, pro forma net income was $13,9m on revenues of $212,2m. Net income was $11,0m in that quarter.

Agere Systems reported revenues for its fourth quarter of fiscal 2003 were $504m, up 11% from revenues in the June quarter, and up 3% from revenues in the year-ago quarter. The increase was driven by an 18% sequential growth in the company's client systems business, with strength in sales of chips for cellphones, hard disk drives and other PC-related applications. For year 2003, Agere reported revenues of $1,84 bn. The company's revenues in fiscal 2002 were $1,92 bn. The company reported its first profit since its IPO, with earnings of $11m for the September quarter, compared with a loss of $78m in the June quarter, and a loss of $885m in the year-ago quarter. For full fiscal year 2003, the company reported a net loss of $338m.

Companies

Corning has announced that it is teaming with IBM and the US Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration, on a $20m project to develop optically-switched interconnects for supercomputers. In the drive to exceed one quadrillion operations per second (one petaflop) IBM Research said that it would enable researchers to break down new barriers in life sciences, weather prediction, and defence applications.

Siemens and Leonhard Kurz have formed a joint venture called PolyIC to develop polymer integrated circuits formed by printing.

Cambridge-based Alphamosaic has announced that Tokyo FM and Vitec will be working with the company to produce the technology behind handsets that will deliver digital radio and multimedia to people on the move. Alphamosaic has developed a processor that enables a full suite of multimedia applications including video streaming, at high quality and low power. Tokyo FM, a leading broadcaster in Japan, launched a terrestrial digital radio broadcast (ISDB-T system) in October, which transmits audio, video and data contents over the VHF channel. Vitec is developing hardware design and software for mobile receivers.

Lenslet, a company developing a digital signal processor that works in the optical domain (see 'World's first commercial optical processor revealed'), has made a strategic co-operation agreement with Japanese company Paltek, for the company's EnLight product, for Japanese manufacturers.

Industry

Sales of semiconductors worldwide increased 6,5% to $14,4 bn in September 2003, up from $13,6 bn in August, and the seventh consecutive monthly increase, according to the latest figures from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). September's performance, the strongest percentage change since 1990, propelled quarterly revenue to $43,3 bn, a 17,5% increase over the third quarter of 2002, and a 13,7% sequential rise over the second quarter of 2003. "September and third quarter data confirm that demand in the global semiconductor market is rising briskly," stated SIA president George Scalise. "Performance is strong in all major market sectors - computation, communications and consumer, indicating a solid, continuing and broad-based growth cycle." PCs drove growth in the third quarter, producing a 33,2% rise in DRAMs and a 23,9% rise in microprocessors. Flash grew 27,2% and DSPs were up 20,3% in the third quarter, driven by strong growth in cellphones. The consumer sector, some 17% of the market, is expanding across the globe with new applications and multi-functional devices. Optoelectronics were up 14,6% and ASSPs were up 17,2% this quarter.

For the first time in two years, Forward Concepts is raising its worldwide general-purpose digital signal processor (DSP) chip market forecast. DSP shipments for the first three quarters of 2003 were up 13,6% over the same period last year, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organisation. When compared with the 2,3% increase of the worldwide 'monolithic IC' market over the same period, DSP is a clear winner, said the group. The company now predicts 2003 over 2002 'shipment growth' at 20% rather than 15%, and the 2004 forecast, at 25% rather than 20%. When ranked by market sector, DSP usage is dominated by wireless applications. For the first nine months of 2003 the group sees that as responsible for 67,7% of the market. This is followed by consumer, multipurpose, wireline, computer, automotive with 11,0%, 8,4%, 5,9%, 4,4% and 2,6% of the market, respectively.

Market research firm In-Stat/MDR has announced that it retains its forecast for the growth of the global semiconductor market in 2003 at 16,7% and that it expects the market in 2004 to be $206,8 bn - 25,9% ahead of 2003. The analyst group said that unlike past recoveries, which were driven by specific products, such as PCs or mobile phones, this recovery is more broadly based, making it slower, but less susceptible to changes in specific end product markets.

IC Insights released its forecast for the top 10 semiconductor supplier rankings for 2003. With three suppliers from Europe, three from Japan, two from the US, one from Korea, and one from Taiwan, it expects the list to be a balanced representation of geographic regions. However, it is likely to be the first time that there are more European companies on the list than US companies. In order, (with 2002/2003 percentage change and 2002 rank in brackets) they are: Intel, $27030m, 12% (1); Samsung, $10125m, 16% (2); Renesas, $8995m, 14% (3); Texas Instruments, $8210m, 23% (4); Toshiba, $7975m, 23% (5); STMicro, $7145m, 12% (6); Infineon, $6885m, 28% (8); NEC, $6250m, 10% (7); TSMC, $5900m, 27% (10); Philips, $5600m, 28% (11).

Driven by strong PC sales in the third quarter of 2003, Gartner has increased its projections for computer shipments in the fourth quarter. Worldwide PC shipments will total 47,2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2003, a 12,4% increase from the same period last year, according to its forecasts.

During the next five years, those that sell semiconductor components into the cellular base station market are likely to see their revenues shrink, reports In-Stat/MDR. While the number of worldwide cellular subscribers continues to grow, and the number of services that these subscribers use continues to increase as well, this unfortunately, says InStat, does not translate into increasing base station semiconductor revenues. Over the period from 2002 to 2007, BTS semiconductor revenue is forecast to drop from just under $2,3 bn in 2003 to just under $1,6 bn in 2007, a CAGR of -8,8%.

ITU delegates from government and industry have agreed on a new global standard that will allow network operators to increase the capacity of optical fibre. The standard, ITU-T Recommendation G.695, applies to Coarse Wave Division Multiplexing (CWDM) technology, which is used most often in metropolitan networks. CWDM is seen as a cheaper and simpler alternative to DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing). Less expensive uncooled lasers may be used in CWDM products because of wide channel spacing. These lasers require less precise wavelength control, as well as lower-cost passive components. Experts estimate that carriers with sufficient deployed fibre could make savings of up to 30% deploying a CWDM solution compared with the DWDM alternative.

Market research firm In-Stat/MDR expects that China's mobile market will grow from 206,75 million subscribers in 2002 to 402,28 million subscribers by 2007, a compound annual growth rate of 10,5% for the forecast period.

DATE, Europe's premier conference and exhibition for electronic design, automation and test, has received all-time record submissions to the conference programme. For the 2004 event, which takes place in Paris from February 16th to 20th, 780 papers were submitted for review to the 372 member Technical Programme Committee. The number of papers submitted has increased by 39% over DATE 03 - and is the highest number of papers ever submitted to an electronic design conference anywhere in the world, said the organisers.

Sun Microsystems has officially announced the imminent release of its Sun Java Desktop System, which is claimed to be an affordable comprehensive, simple to use and secure enterprise-grade desktop solution. Because the desktop alternative runs on a Linux/UNIX operating system, strict security system root access control prevents viruses from modifying files, says Sun. Also, the Java sandbox security infrastructure prevents viruses from infecting the system environment.

Technology

A new battery that harvests electricity from flowing water is being developed by a team at the University of Alberta in Canada. Called an 'electrokinetic battery' the device works by separating water molecules into positively charged hydrogen ions and negatively charged hydroxide ions. In the prototype, the surface of a porous glass filter is negatively charged - this attracts hydrogen ions to form a layer. The pores are about ten thousandths of a millimetre wide - the same size as the layer. The ions accumulate preferentially in the pores. Pressure is then applied to drive the liquid through the pores and move the charged ions from one side of the porous membrane to the other. Thus, an electric current flows. Although the current is tiny, it adds up when the water flows through thousands of pores at once. Gravity drives water through, as the inlet pipe is 30 cm above the outlet, and it produces a current of around one microamp through less than 500 000 channels.

Si-Light Technologies, a start-up company in Guildford, UK, founded by academic staff from the University of Surrey, is investigating the low-cost applications of its patented dislocation engineering technology, which enables light emission from silicon in the wavelength region 1,1 to 1,6 µm. The company is receiving financial backing for the project from the UK government's Department of Trade and Industry.

Silicon Laboratories has unveiled a satellite radio tuner chip set crafted all in CMOS. Silicon Labs' CMOS synthesizer is already designed into the radios for the XM Radio satellite radio service. The new two-part chip-set adds a tuner IC to the synthesizer to offer the full RF solution to satellite radio makers.

Atmel announced at the FSA Show in San Jose that its foundry service is also available for its high-voltage BCD-on-SOI technology. The new BCD-on-SOI process, called SMARTIS, combines bipolar, CMOS and DMOS technology. This enables simultaneous handling of analog and digital power to realise devices that combine power drivers and small microcontroller cores on one chip.

STMicroelectronics has made joint development agreement with MobiDiag of Helsinki, Finland, to create a genomic-based detection system for infectious diseases based on silicon MEMS. Using micromachined silicon chips with very fine channels from ST for the manipulation of microlitre quantities of liquid, MobiDiag can precisely heat the minute quantities. Miniaturisation of the diagnostic device means that smaller samples can be used, reagents quantity is reduced, and reaction times are consequently much shorter.

British company STG Aerospace, has been selected as the sole supplier to Boeing, Embraer and BAE Systems for its wireless emergency lighting systems. The company's unique SafTGlo photoluminescent system replaces conventional electrically-powered systems that risk failure if the power supply is cut. The company says SafTGlo can store light in just 10 minutes' exposure to cabin or daylight, and the floorpath marking systems and signage give at least 12 hours of emergency lighting in total darkness. The light is a yellow/green colour - best perceived by the human eye. It typically costs about 20% of a comparable electrical system, and STG reports that customers can reduce their maintenance and spares support by as much as 90%.





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