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Electronics News Digest
12 September 2001, News, Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Grintek Power Technologies has grown sales of its DC power solutions to the telecoms industry from R23m last year to R67m this year. The company has secured new business from Siemens Telecommunications, with a potential of R60m, for DC power equipment used in its roll-out of the Cell C network, it announced. "As we will also be supplying DC power solutions to Siemens Telecommunications for their telecommunications roll-outs into Africa, this agreement with Siemens has been the single biggest growth and success in the business unit during the last year," says Gavin Swanepoel, Grintek Electronics MD. He said that growth of the Cell C network and Grintek's existing long term supply agreements with other major telecom companies in the region should result in more than 10 000 DC power modules being produced over the next three years. The company has also capitalised on its investment in new intellectual property obtained through the licence manufacturing agreement with its Australian technology partner, Rectifier Technologies Pacific. According to Grintek, full local manufacturing and engineering support will ensure sustained product support over the product life cycle and create 30 new jobs at Omnigo, Grintek's joint venture manufacturing partner. Further positive knock-on effects are savings on foreign exchange in terms of import replacement and the building of a strong, competitive, local industry.

In a R9m deal that heralds its entry into the substation automation market, Siemens' Power Automation Department has been awarded a contract by the City of Cape Town for the supply of SICAM Remote Terminal Units (RTUs). The contract is to replace the existing Siemens 8FW RTUs supplied to Cape Town approximately 20 years ago as well as for new RTUs over the next five years. The initial order for around R2,1m for the first six RTUs was placed in March 2001. According to the company, the contract - awarded against strong competition with a total of six tenders submitted - is a watershed project for Power Automation as it is the first project in South Africa using this platform. The SICAM RTU offered provides control and data acquisition in the substations for the SCADA system in the Cape Town Control Centre.

A communications network solution to deliver affordable telephony and data services to buildings in the CBD of Ugandan capital, Kampala, and the first 'fibre to the kerb' installation in Africa, and is being installed by Marconi Communications South Africa (MCSA). The contract for R40m is for MTN Uganda. The installation of the initial 14 km long fibre-optic cable ring network around the Kampala CBD and industrial area has been completed and work is proceeding on inter-switch trunk connections and access rings. About 30% of the first phase has been installed and Marconic claims that the network can already carry the equivalent of more than 3500 simultaneous telephone calls. "Fibre to the kerb is ideal for a greenfield installation such as this one," says MCSA Technical Director George Debbo. "The synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) backbone links British developed TM-16 technology and thereafter German access technology in the form of MSV-5 and MS 1/4 distribution nodes and optical network units (ONUs) that take POTS, ISDN and leased lines to end-users with the possibility of also supplying xDSL services." Debbo says the optic fibre network is also replacing the existing MTN microwave system between GSM basestations and will be used to connect a second MTN GSM cellular services switch to the original GSM switch.

Spescom DataFusion implemented a complete Cisco-based Internet Protocol (IP) telephony and integrated contact centre communication system to assist digital financial services company 20twenty Financial Services in achieving its 'New World banking vision'. According to Tim Pryce, Director: Spescom DataFusion, 20twenty FS selected Spescom for its exceptional skills and expertise in the contact centre market, voice technology and IP telephony. He said when it was initially installed it was one of the first completely integrated Cisco-based IP telephony and IPCC installations in the world.

Plant management at South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power station will benefit from the merger of the nuclear activities of two global companies - Framatome and Siemens Power Generation. This is according to John Hazakis, Head of Mechanical Power Generation at Siemens SA, who says that merged company Framatome ANP is in a leading position to increase plant performance and reduce operating costs at Koeberg and other electrical utilities all over the world. Hazakis said that plant performances will be increased in terms of availability and safety measures, service life extension and cost control. Philippe Pontet, Framatome Group President, said that the new merged company intends to play a major part in the expected renaissance of the world nuclear energy market due to rapidly growing electricity requirements.

Spescom is assisting US-based nonprofit organisation Schools Online to develop a pilot programme at four Eastern Cape schools intended to ensure human development and technology capacity building. Schools Online develops innovative learning models utilising Information and Communication Technology to help marginalised or under-served schools in developing countries. As part of its support, Schools Online usually establishes Internet learning centres, comprising a comprehensive multimedia facility with computers, a network, digital and video cameras, printers and scanners. Spescom assisted Schools Online to determine potential strategic partners among business leaders, telecom providers, vendors, local educational organisations, NGOs and government. "Our assessment led to the decision to create four learning hubs in geographically centred areas that focus resources where they are needed most and can be used most effectively. We will establish the learning centres in primarily black communities but conduct a teacher training programme that includes educators from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds," said Johan Rubens, Schools Online Program Manager. Rubens said Schools Online is still looking for potential partners and hopes to attract the support of the larger computer equipment vendors.

The SABS Design Institute's Design for Development Awards, to be judged on 7 November in Durban, highlights the fact that Africa's own designers can positively affect the standards of living and speed up technological advancement in Africa. Adrienne Viljoen, SABS Design Institute Manager says that the entrants' brief is to "ask themselves why the product is suitable for use in areas with a poor infrastructure, and how the product can best solve developmental problems". She says all Design for Development 2001 awards are being judged on - among other criteria - innovation, use of available quality materials and personnel, performance in harsh conditions, user-friendliness, safety, ergonomics and environmental impact. For example, previous entries have included a mobile solar water heater, a solar-powered control unit for electricity supply in remote areas, a rugged, self-contained sanitation system and various building and brickmaking systems. Others which attracted the judges' attention were a redesigned pap-smear device, a solar-powered hearing aid and a lightweight wheelchair. "The objective of the SABS Design Institute's Awards programme has always been to highlight how Africa is using effective design to meet Africa's particular needs", says Viljoen.

Maxim Integrated Products has appointed CST Electronics to distribute ICs from both Maxim and its wholly-owned subsidiary Dallas Semiconductor in South Africa.

Overseas

Business

Agilent Technologies reported orders of $1,3 bn and revenue of $1,8 bn for the quarter ended 31 July. The results exclude Agilent's recently-sold healthcare business. The company said that third-quarter orders for its communications and semiconductor products continued to be very weak, reflecting the severe slowdown plaguing these industries in recent months. The company has also announced it will reduce its workforce by approximately 4000 people (9%), by the middle of next year in order to restore the company to profitability as soon as possible. Ned Barnholt, Agilent President and CEO said: "The measures to date have had a positive impact, but the business environment in our key industries continued to deteriorate this quarter. And the outlook going forward is for a slow and gradual recovery. This is by far the worst industry downturn I've seen in my 34 years with the company. Extraordinary business conditions, unfortunately, require unusual actions." Barnholt noted that given the difficult business environment, Agilent is pleased with its asset management this quarter. "We were able to generate positive operating cash flow despite a loss. We received $1,6 bn from the healthcare business sale, and by end August, we'll have almost no debt." Looking forward, the company said it expects a slight increase in total Q4 orders over this quarter's $1,3 bn. Because backlog is at very low levels across the company's T&M and semiconductor businesses, revenue will be dependent to a large extent upon new orders - expected to be between $1,3 and $1,5 bn.

Semtech, a supplier of ICs for power management, high-speed line drivers, interface circuits, reported a 33% sequential decline in net sales during its second fiscal quarter, ended 29 July. However, the company said it now expects sales to grow 3-to-5% in the current third fiscal quarter. It estimates that its net sales will be in the range of $41,7 to $42,6m in the fiscal third quarter. For the second quarter, Semtech's revenues were $40,5m compared to $60,5m in the prior three-month period. The company's sales fell 33% from $60,6m in the quarter last year.

Integrated Device Technology has forecast that its revenues will fall 10 to 15% in the third quarter from $116m in Q2 due to weaker conditions in foreign chip markets. President and CEO, Jerry Taylor, said that slower end-market conditions have spread to Europe and Japan.

Companies

Agere Systems has announced it will align its products under two new market-focused groups - Infrastructure Systems and Client Systems, that target the network equipment and consumer communications markets respectively. Agere said the Infrastructure Systems group will leverage its dual expertise in optoelectronics components and ICs, positioning the company to lead the convergence of these two technologies in high-speed communications systems. The Client Systems group will build on Agere's leadership in wireless data, computer communications and storage solutions to address the dynamic end-user applications market.

Cypress Semiconductor has announced plans to acquire In-System Design, a supplier of system-on-chip (SoC) designs for personal communications applications, for $45m in cash and assumed options. The acquisition will give Cypress additional capabilities to supply 'total systems solutions' for the so-called personal communications market.

Sony Corporation and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson have announced that they have agreed to merge their mobile phone businesses worldwide, subject to final approval of the Boards of the two parent companies and subject to regulatory approvals. The companies will establish a joint venture - Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications - in October.

Clare, manufacturer of high-voltage analog and mixed-signal ICs for the communications market, has announced that it has completed the divestiture of its reed switch business to Sumida REMtech Corporation, a subsidiary of Sumida Corporation of Japan. Clare previously reported in July that it had entered into a definitive agreement to sell all of the assets of its reed switch business for $8m in cash.

Three-Five Systems and Silicon Bandwidth have announced a jointly-developed packaging platform for Three-Five's high-resolution, liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) Brillian line of microdisplays. The companies claim the innovative packaging platform is easy to integrate into OEM products and allows for potential, significant cost savings for both OEMs and display manufacturers. With a compact design, the microdisplay module has three main parts: the microdisplay itself; the flex to attach the display to the end product, and the housing, or package, which provides a stable platform for the microdisplay. The company says the design eliminates the need for additional connectors, decreasing overall cost. In addition, the flex can be re-inserted into the housing many times, making it more suitable for automated convergence alignment during OEM assembly processes. The company says that the microdisplay market, and LCoS in particular, is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. According to Stanford Resources: "The world market for microdisplays will grow from 12,6m units valued at $692m in 2000 at a CAGR of 12,3% to 35,2m units valued at $1,38 bn in 2006."

TDK Semiconductor is collaborating with Seiko Instruments USA to develop the industry's first streaming media socket technology based on an Internet modem. The companies are combining an embedded modem chip from TDK with Seiko's iChip Internet Modem Module (IMM) to provide a single-chip solution with TCP/IP/PPP hardware protocol stack. This single-chip design offers complete Internet connectivity, according to the two companies.

Intel and Symbian recently announced that the two companies will work together to accelerate software application development for wireless devices based on the Intel Personal Internet Client Architecture (Intel PCA) and Symbian OS, Symbian's operating system for data-enabled mobile phones. Symbian will also support Intel PCA, Intel's open design for building wireless handheld communications devices and software applications that combine voice communications and Internet access. The two companies are working together to port Symbian OS to the application processing engines for Intel PCA - extending Symbian's support for the Intel StrongARM processor to future processors based on Intel Xscale microarchitecture.

Kanda Logical Devices has been signed-up as the worldwide exclusive ISP tools provider for National Semiconductor's new Flash and ISP-ready devices. Kanda will shortly release a complete range of COP8 tools. Kanda is represented in this country by Sivan Electronic Supplies.

Industry

Toshiba has announced its '01 Action Plan', a series of measures that will strengthen business operations in the current downturn, particularly in the IT sector. The '01 Action Plan' has three key pillars: 'intensified competitiveness', 'streamlined management' and 'corporate initiative', and will support Toshiba in attaining the mid-term business plan announced earlier this year. According to the company, the underlying objective is to achieve a robust organisation that can quickly recognise business reality and respond flexibly to a changing business environment, and assure achievement of the mid-term business plan. The 01 Action Plan will include a major reform of its business units, production cuts, and a consolidated workforce reduction of 18 800 jobs (10% of headcount), by fiscal year 2003, according to the Tokyo-based company. Toshiba said it will also cut 25% of its 98 domestic manufacturing and engineering companies by fiscal 2003. The company also intends to shift more production to outside companies.

Fujitsu has announced that it will cut 16 400 jobs and take a $2,5 bn restructuring charge. Fujitsu said it will exit the market for hard-disk drives for PCs, reduce printer production and around 4200 employees in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. However, the company will continue to produce hard drives for servers and notebook computers. According to Fujitsu, the retructuring will position it to make an operating profit of $3,33 bn in fiscal 2003. The company will cut about 5000 jobs in Japan, and 11400 jobs overseas. For Fujitsu's Q1 results ended in June, the company lost $352,5m at the operating level and had a net loss of $458,3m.

Swedish communications-chip maker SwitchCore AB has announced some cost-cutting measures, including plans to reduce its worldwide worforce by an undisclosed number. Affected by the current downturn in the IC business, the switching chip supplier said it hopes to reduce its costs by 20% with the measures.

Several decades of R&D by the optical components industry on how to build integrated optical circuits similar to those manufactured by the microelectronics industry are at last beginning to bear fruit, according to a new report from Communications Industry Researchers. Worldwide revenues are expected to reach $2,6 bn by 2005 from just $13,4m in 2001. The group said it believes a combination of new markets - such as broadband metro networks - and new manufacturing strategies are finally setting the stage for strong growth in optical circuits. It believes a major barrier to integrated optical circuits is disappearing because the optical components industry is abandoning the 'pure', but hard-to-achieve, vision of monolithic optical ICs on a single chip. Instead, the industry is adopting a 'more pragmatic vision of hybrid optical circuits in which single function chips will be bonded together within one package', it said.

Asia-Pacific's broadband business is projected to grow by about 520% over the next five years, despite the current downturn in the communications market, according to a Dataquest report. Asia-Pacific's broadband market, excluding Japan, is projected grow from 6,1m subscribers at the end of 2000, to 11,4m by the end of 2001, to 37,8m by 2005, it says. Broadband access revenue is expected to hit $5,8 bn in 2005, up from $732m at the end of 2000, Dataquest said.

NEC Electronics has announced the appointment of Toshio Nakajima as President and Chief Operations Officer. Nakajima has most recently served as the General Manager of NEC's 1st System LSI and System Micro divisions.

Technology

Intel has announced a new multitasking technology, called Hyper-Threading, which it says is designed to increase system performance 30% by enabling a processor to handle data instructions in parallel rather than one at a time. Originally code-named Jackson Technology, it allows a single processor to manage data as if it were two processors. Using Hyper-Threading technology, data instructions are 'threaded' as parallel streams for processing. Intel plans to introduce Hyper-Threading technology in Xeon processors during 2002 (intended for servers), but will also incorporate it into a variety of Intel products over the next few years. The Hyper-Threading technology was demonstrated at Intel Developer Forum held recently in San Jose. Intel said the multithreading technology allows a processor to manage incoming data from different software applications and continuously switch from one set of data instructions to the other in few nanoseconds. It can switch back and forth without losing track of the data processing status of each instruction set, according to the chipmaker.

IBM scientists have developed a breakthrough transistor technology that it believes could enable production of a new class of smaller, faster and lower power computer chips than currently possible with silicon. IBM researchers have built the world's first array of transistors out of carbon nanotubes - tiny cylinders of carbon atoms that measure as small as 10 atoms across and are 500 times smaller than today's silicon-based transistors. According to the researchers, the breakthrough is a new batch process for forming large numbers of nanotube transistors. Previously, nanotubes had to be positioned one at a time or by random chance - tedious for mass production. This achievement is an important step in finding new materials and processes for improving computer chips after silicon-based chips cannot be made any smaller - a problem chip makers are expected to face in about 10-20 years. In a related breakthrough, the researchers have also created and demonstrated the world's first logic-performing computer circuit within a single molecule. The IBM team made a 'voltage inverter' - one of the three fundamental logic circuits that are the basis for all of today's computers - from the tube-shaped molecule of carbon atoms 100 000 times thinner than a human hair.

Intel has demonstrated a Pentium 4 processor running at 3,5 GHz speeds during the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). Intel showed a system, based on the 3,5 GHz Pentium 4, linked to several computers via a wireless local area network based on the 802.11 wireless LAN standard. The chip is manufactured using the company's new 0,13-micron process technology.

Quickturn, a Cadence Design Systems subsidiary, has introduced a new emulator with a capacity of 100 million gates.The CoBALT Ultra Design Verification System, the highest-capacity verification system available, is the only system that delivers capacity and performance sufficient to verify the largest, most complex designs - all in an integrated, single-chassis platform, the company said. Cobalt Ultra is scalable and can be expanded to support up to 112 million ASIC gates and 64 gigabytes of RAM.

Xilinx's new version 4.1i Integrated Software Environment (ISE). ISE 4.1i is claimed to provide industry-first physical synthesis and formal verification integration. In addition to run-time improvement, the company's new ISE now offers a collection of unique technologies, called ProActive Timing Closure, that includes four key technologies: physical synthesis; intelligent place and route algorithms; HDL analysis; and timing cross-probing. According to the company, with Virtex-II devices, users can now design for clock speeds of greater than 300 MHz. Additionally, Xilinx users now also have access to next-generation physical synthesis, including Synplicity's Amplify and advanced verification capabilities of Synopsys' PrimeTime and Formality. Another feature is a new routing algorithm that 'remembers' which paths were previously routed successfully, and then transparently re-routes unsuccessful areas to meet overall timing goals.


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