Battle heats up for USB3.0 chips in new markets

Paul Boughton
Electronic component suppliers are set to battle over the next generation of high speed USB technology, opening up new markets for the devices.

Both NEC and Texas Instruments have announced controllers for the 5Gbit/s USB3.0 standard, with devices starting to ship this month.
NEC Electronics starts shipping the industry's first Universal Serial Bus (USB) host controller, the µPD720200, this month. This is aimed at both the PC and digital TVs and DVD recorders, transferring 25GBytes of video content on a Blu-ray disc in 70s, compared to 14 minutes to transfer the same content when using the high-speed USB 2.0 with 480Mbit/s transfer. NEC has been leading in USB chips, shipping the world's first USB 2.0-compliant host controller in 2000.
At the same time Texas Instruments has developed a new 5Gbit/s transceiver chip for USB3.0. This can drive and receive signals over 4m USB3.0 cables to ensure data integrity. The transceiver, with intellectual property (IP) for a digital controller from design tool vendor Synopsys, tested successfully at the USB-IF SuperSpeed Peripheral Interoperability Lab.
“Demonstrating interoperability between Synopsys’ DesignWare SuperSpeed USB digital controller and TI’s USB transceiver gives designers confidence that the IP functions successfully in a real-world system environment,” said John Koeter, vice president of marketing for the Solutions Group at Synopsys. “Synopsys and TI are working together to help advance new technology into the market quickly, while minimizing risk and speeding time-to-market.”

The test chip includes an integrated spread spectrum PLL, support for multiple input reference frequencies: 20 MHz, 25 MHz, 30 MHz and 40 MHz, PIPE3 and ULPI compliant interfaces and programmable transmitter pre-emphasis. These save system cost by eliminating the need for an external spread spectrum clocking device and give interoperability across a wide selection of ASIC / FPGA platforms eases designs by allowing designers to work with the same USB device, regardless of the processor platform.

The first of TI's USB3.0 family of devices, the TUSB1310 SuperSpeed USB transceiver, will sample by the end of the year with volume production in the first quarter of 2010.

NEC expects the market for USB 3.0 to begin a rapid expansion, with monthly production expected to reach approximately 1,000,000 units in September 2009. It intends to market its $15 µPD720200 controller aggressively, and to offer a range of related products by incorporating USB 3.0 communications as an IP (intellectual property) core function in various application specific ICs.

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