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Electronics News Digest
10 April 2002, News, Electronic News Digest

Southern Africa

Intel South Africa is expanding its sphere of influence into Africa, and has embarked on a campaign of formalising distribution channels into neighbouring, West and East African countries either through its existing SA distributors or by appointing new distributors in each country. Intel SA says it shares the African territory with its Dubai-based offices, which has always had responsibility for Arab-speaking North African countries, and more recently took on Nigeria, where it already has a distributor, as well as the French-speaking countries of central Africa. According to Steve Nossel, Intel country manager, the company's new focus is on improving the channels into Africa, using South Africa as a hub for neighbouring and East African countries: "While neighbouring countries have long been supplied by our distribution channels, it is a new formal focus for us in terms of using local distributors - including Rectron, Axiz and Arrow Altech Distribution - as the official mechanism to get to these markets." For East Africa, Intel has already identified key distributors that are based in those countries that had previously been working with Intel either out of Europe or the Middle East.

Winning entries from the SABS Design Institute Awards 2002 will participate under the banner of SA Design and Technology at SACOB's Business Week, which will dovetail with the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September this year. According to Adrienne Viljoen, manager of the SABS Design Institute, this is particularly significant as good engineering and industrial design forms the backbone of any developing country's economy, and participation will allow local designers to showcase excellent examples of innovation. Entries for 2002 are being submitted in two distinct categories, industrial design and engineering design. The former is for products intended for domestic, working and recreational environments, while the latter is for products used in general industry, mining, agriculture, medicine, transportation and communication. The closing date for entries is 3 May 2002.

For the first time in its history Poynting Innovations has won three simultaneous international contracts: antenna development for the USA and France and an STV system installation in Nigeria. Poynting secured a contract for an STV system for the Central Bank Nigeria, Head Office Complex in Abuja, Nigeria. This project entails the design of the system, the sourcing, assembly and checking of the equipment in South Africa, installing the system and concluding with testing and commissioning. Advanced Navigation & Positioning Corporation (ANPC) approached Poynting Innovation regarding the development of a TLS guidance antenna system. Poynting will be involved in the design, testing and manufacturing of the TLS precision aircraft landing system. At the end of 2001 the company secured a contract with Chelton, France for the design of an LPMA antenna. Poynting previously designed a 30-420 MHz LPMA antenna and this new antenna requires a similar frequency range. This contract includes the design of the antenna in SA with the antenna being manufactured in France.

AST Networks has installed a Philips' DECT solution on behalf of AST Distribution Technology Solutions (DTS) for its client Remedial Hardware Maintenance (RHM). A total of 50 DECT handsets, 3 Ergoline digital phones with the SOPHO iS 3030 PBX form the basis of the system.

Sourcecom has received ISO 9001:2000 certification for its Quality Management System, making it the sole BEE IT company within the Western Cape to achieve this designation. ISO 9001:2000 is an internationally-accepted standard for quality management systems issued by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

Overseas

Companies

International Rectifier has acquired the assets of European Semiconductor Manufacturing (ESM) and its submicron semiconductor manufacturing facility in Newport, Wales, for $81m in cash to further support growth in its proprietary products. IR said revenues from these analog ICs, advanced circuits, and power systems grew 30% in the most recent 12 months reported and account for half of total sales. The facility offers leading-edge mixed-signal and analog process capabilities. Including future expansion at the Newport facility, IR said it plans overall capital expenditures of less than 10% of revenues annually.

Microchip Technology has announced it has formed the 'Appliance Market Products Group' to target new design opportunities for appliance applications worldwide. Microchip plans to design, develop and launch appliance-specific solutions for basic control, user interface, motor control and energy efficiency in applications such as traditional white goods, comfort/convenience, personal care and industrial appliances. Microchip said that the semiconductor segment of the global appliance market is estimated at $2 bn in 2001, but that the general appliance market remains embryonic in adding low-cost electronics intelligence and control. Stephen Caldwell has been named director of the Appliance Market Products Group.

Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric have agreed to a proposed merger of their non-memory semiconductor businesses. This will create a new $6 bn chip company in 2003 that will sell a range of products, including microcontrollers, logic ICs, analog circuits, and discrete devices.

The companies said that the companies will be launched with a common brand name.

Tektronix has announced that it has acquired Profile Optische Systeme, a German supplier of component test and measurement systems. The move expands Tektronix' efforts in the optical test and measurement business. Profile will be integrated with Tektronix' optical business. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Ten communications companies have formed the 10-Gigabit Serial Interface Module Group (XFP). The group's purpose is to develop a common specification for multi-sourcing, application-agnostic, ultra-small form factor, 10 Gbps modules. These modules will occupy one-fifth the space and use one-half the power of current modules. They will also be hot-pluggable, support data rates from 9,95 to 10,7 Gbps, and are targeted for applications up to 40 km, according to the group. Founding member companies include Broadcom, Brocade, Emulex, Finisar, JDS Uniphase, Maxim, ONI Systems, ICS (a Sumitomo Electric company), Tyco Electronics and Velio.

Planar Systems has agreed to pay $61m to acquire Dome Imaging Systems, a maker of high-end computer displays for medical X-ray and other diagnostic imaging.

Infineon Technologies, in conjunction with German biotechnology specialist november AG, is working on a 'Watermark' project for chip cards to develop extra security features. The two are collaborating on a method of providing a coating for the gold contact surface on the cards to have unique identification features. Like the watermark on a banknote, the coating adds another layer of identification information for the security system, to visually verify its source as valid.

Apogee Technology has signed a joint development agreement with STMicroelectronics to develop and market new semiconductor products that leverage Apogee's Direct Digital Amplification (DDX) technology. The joint development agreement complements the DDX technology licensing agreement signed between the companies in February 2001. Under the licensing agreement the companies have successfully released a 4.1 channel DDX controller and two DDX power devices that provide up to 100 W of high efficiency 'pure digital' audio power. These products will suit a wide range of traditional consumer products as well as emerging applications such as the DVD receivers which integrate six-channels of audio amplification.

Industry

Corning expressed optimism tempered with realism as it presented its annual overview of the fibre and photonics industry at OFC 2002. Corning estimated that in 2001, worldwide demand for optical fibre declined by approximately 5% and worldwide revenue for terrestrial optical transport equipment decreased by approximately 25% from the previous year. It believes the optical fibre market is bottoming out, with modest sequential volume growth expected in quarter one 2002. Corning cited the following estimates: North America, which accounted for 35% of the total worldwide demand, declined by approximately 30%; Western Europe, representing 25% of worldwide demand, declined by around 10%; Japan, representing 15% of the worldwide demand, increased by nearly 90%; 'Other Asia,' 20% of worldwide demand, increased by about 40%; Latin America and ROW, which comprised 5% of the worldwide demand, declined by approximately 5%. By application: Long-haul terrestrial/submarine, accounting for 20% of the total worldwide demand, showed a decline of approximately 40%, driven largely by the steep decline in capital expenditures and economic turbulence in the US and Western Europe; demand for fibre in Metro applications, representing 40% of the total worldwide demand, grew by approximately 20%; Access, representing 35% of the total worldwide demand, showed an increase of about 10%; and Premises, accounting for 5% of the total worldwide demand, stayed flat.

Despite being a mere three years old, the LAN telephony market reached approximately one billion dollars in 2001, with sales (tracked by stations and revenues) reaching triple what they were the year prior, according to In-Stat/MDR.

Global service provider spending on DSL equipment topped $2,3 bn in 2001, according to market research firm RHK. Europe and Asia-Pacific led the global market with 66% of ports shipped. Alcatel remained the world market share leader with 41%, followed by Siemens at 13%, and Lucent at 10%. RHK defines service provider DSL equipment as network systems that stay within the network and support the major types of high-bandwidth data over copper lines: ADSL, SHDSL and VDSL. Cisco and Fujitsu each had a market share of 8% for 2001 while additional vendors, including Inovia (part of ECI Telecom), NEC, Siemens, and Samsung made up the remaining 20% of the market.

SchlumbergerSema has released its annual smartcard market trends review, which notes that last year's economic slowdown significantly affected the industry's deliveries. For 2001, year-on-year growth rates for the entire smartcard industry fell from typical +20% levels to what for this market segment is, effectively a flat line at just +3%. The most visible effect is expected to be greater emphasis on a wider range of applications that go well beyond previous years' strong focus on mobile communications, it says. Hidden inside the overall picture are some significant trends and successes. They include maturity for multi-application cards, with anticipated dominance for the JavaCard platform; the continuing rise of the Asia-Pacific region; and unstoppable momentum for banking applications, which have long cycle times that seem to be immune to macro-economic fluctuations. Looking forward two years, SchlumbergerSema expects smartcard-enabled PKI (public key infrastructure) technology to play a growing role in the deployment of many 2.5 and 3G networks, the roll-out of national ID card programs, and the implementation of smartcard-based network access for enterprise IT systems.

Over-committed vendor financing, serious questions concerning the viability of the technology, the need for 3G, and 11 September, made 2001 an unforgettable year for the cellular industry. So says high-tech research firm, In-Stat/MDR, whose 2001 wireless awards summary reports that even though fourth quarter performance gives cause for concern, wireless award values have almost doubled over the past five years and deployment of new, higher speed hardware with CDMA 1x, GPRS and EDGE is proceeding at a record pace. According to principal analyst Ray Jodoin, "The industry has arrived at a crucial position following a year of unrealistically high spectrum licensing fees and an exacerbation of deployment expectations by a lack of handsets for W-CDMA." In 2001 Lucent had the largest share of the CDMA market, while Nokia reigned supreme in the GSM and W-CDMA markets. Also, GSM accounted for 44,9% of the market share, followed by CDMA 1x and W-CDMA in 2001.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has agreed to implement the key recommendations made by the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) to address the health and safety of fabrication facility workers in the US chip industry. The SAC is an independent panel of experts created to evaluate the potential for increased cancer risks among workers at these fabrication facilities. However, the SAC has concluded that there is no affirmative evidence of increased risk of cancer among US semiconductor factory workers, and also reported that insufficient data exists to conclude whether exposure to chemicals or other hazardous materials has or has not increased such a risk of cancer.

Flat-panel displays based on organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) are expected to take over from traditional liquid-crystal display (LCD) technologies over the next decade, according to a new report from iSuppli. The worldwide market for OLED displays is projected to reach $112m in 2002. The OLED display business is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 65% and reach $2,3 bn by 2008, especially as these displays begin to penetrate applications dominated by LCDs, such as cellular phones, PDAs, and viewfinders, according to iSuppli. OLEDs offer superior viewing angles, contrast ratios, and faster response times.

Technology

At the Optical Fiber Communications conference, California, Bell Labs announced that it has doubled the previous distance record for high-bandwidth transmissions sending 2,56 trillion bits per second over 4 000 km of cable using 64-channel dense wavelength division multiplexing. The experimental system transmitted 64 channels of data at 40 Gbps. The previous transmission record was 1,60 terabits of information per second over 2000 kilometres according to Bell Labs.

doubleBW of the Netherlands has launched the PowerFFT processor - benchmarked as the world's fastest standalone full-floating point FFT processor - offering 1K complex point FFT in 10 µs, including windowing and 100 MSa/s sustained throughput. The processor is claimed to be the fastest FFT-optimised DSP and is being offered on a standalone basis or integrated on a 32/64 bit PCI-Card, including drivers and software for a standard PC environment.

Fujitsu Microelectronics America has launched a new 0,11 mm CMOS standard cell ASIC series, which competes with SiGe and GaAs chip technologies for advanced networking and low-power wireless systems. The new CS91 series of design cells features input/output performance options ranging from 622 Mbps to 3,125 Gbps and operate at 0,8 to 3,6 V interface levels. Cores run at 0,8 to 1,3 V.

Atmel has rolled out a new RF data control receiver which it claims is easy to use and thus simplifies design-ins. The receiver is transparent, ie incoming data is directly forwarded to the output, the conventional first-time data validation and comparison is done by an external microcontroller as usual, for consumer and industrial systems. The T5744 is an ASK (Amplitude Shift Keying) receiver that operates in the frequency range of 300 MHz to 450 MHz and is designed for RF data communication systems with data rates of 10 kHz maximum. Programming is not necessary and the single-ended RF input allows unproblematic adaptation to a l/4wave antenna or to a board-printed antenna.

Infineon Technologies demonstrated its Telematics Communication Gateway (TCG), a reference design that integrates mobile phone, wireless networking and global positioning technology at the CTIA Wireless 2002 Conference and Exhibition, Orlando. TCG is designed to reduce manufacturer's costs and speed widespread market adoption of mobile information and entertainment systems in new vehicles.


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