IBM Creates World's Fastest Semiconductor Circuits

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SAN MATEO, CALIFORNIA - 25 Feb 2002: In a keynote address here today, IBM announced it has created the world's fastest semiconductor circuit, operating at speeds of over 110 GigaHertz (GHz) and processing an electrical signal in 4.3 trillionths of a second.

The circuit was built using IBM's latest silicon germanium (SiGe) chip-making technology, extending basic silicon to speeds never thought possible. IBM is now making the technology, dubbed "SiGe 8HP," available to top-tier communications equipment makers to help increase the speed of today's networks.

The first chips built with the technology are expected to appear later this year.

"Many chip-makers are just starting to show they can build SiGe transistors, while we're into our fourth generation of the technology," said Dr. Bernard Meyerson, IBM Fellow and vice president of the IBM Communications Research and Development Center in his keynote address to the 2002 Compound Semiconductor Outlook Conference. "We're translating SiGe's benefits into real customer applications. With multiple SiGe technologies, a full suite of design tools, and a significantly expanded R&D operation, we have the resources to help anticipate and meet our customers communications requirements."

Sierra Monolithics, Inc. has been working with IBM on SiGe integrated circuit designs for a variety of communications applications since 1996 and will be one of the first companies to design circuits based on IBM's new technology.

"IBM continues to push Silicon Germanium technology to new levels," said David Rowe, co-founder and chief technology officer for Sierra Monolithics. "IBM's experience in reliable SiGe process technology and SMI's heritage in high-frequency analog mixed signal IC design, give us an edge in bringing products to market for incredibly high performance applications."

The "ring oscillator" circuits built by IBM are common building blocks used in communications chip designs and are frequently used to assess the capabilities of new chip-making technology, such as SiGe 8HP. Work with these circuits demonstrates the technology's ability to support communication speeds of over 100 gigabits-per-second. It also demonstrates SiGe's much lower power consumption than the gallium arsenide and indium phosphide materials traditionally viewed as necessary for such high-speed operations.

SiGe is a process technology in which the electrical properties of silicon, the material underlying virtually all modern microchips, is augmented with germanium to make the chips operate more efficiently. This technology is already widely deployed in a range of both high speed wired and low cost wireless gear. In addition, SiGe provides increased integration capabilities, enabling designers to pack more function onto a single chip, resulting in speed, power, cost and weight savings.

IBM is already collaborating on SiGe 8HP circuit designs with a select set of early access customers in the development and qualification stages of commercial wired applications. In a concurrent announcement, IBM also broadened its current SiGe technology offerings with the introduction of two new variants, SiGe 5PA and SiGe 5DM, specifically tailored for wireless communication chip applications.

The availability of this robust SiGe process reinforces IBM's position as the industry's leading SiGe chip and technology supplier. In recent data published by research firm IC Insights in their "2002 McClean Report," the firm estimates that SiGe sales totaled $320 million in 2001 and are projected to grow to about $2.7 billion by 2006. The report estimates that IBM SiGe revenues grew 86 percent 2001 over 2000, representing more than 80% of total 2001 SiGe business.

IBM first revealed its SiGe technology in 1989, and later introduced it into the industry's first standard, high-volume SiGe chips in October 1998. Since then, IBM's SiGe technology has been adopted by a wide range of companies for a variety of applications, including RF components in cellular handsets, Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) chipsets, high speed test and measurement equipment, and chipsets for optical data transmission systems.

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