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Network and communication chips are semiconductor integrated circuits (IC) used in telecommunication devices and systems. Network and communication chips use many different technologies. Choices include current mode logic (CML); gunning transceiver logic (GTL) and gunning transceiver logic plus (GTLP); emitter coupling logic (ECL), positive ECL (PECL), and low-voltage PECL (LVPEC); low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS), bus LVDS (BLVDS), and multi-point LVDS (M-LVDS); digital visual interface (DVI) and high-definition media interface (HDMI); and digital subscriber line (DSL) and integrated services digital network (ISDN). Network and communication chips can also use Ethernet, Fibre Channel, IEEE 1394 or FireWire® (Apple Computer), Microwire® (National Instruments), PanelBus, high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA), inter-integrated circuit (I2)C, infrared data access (IrDA), global positioning system (GPS), general packet radio service (GPRS), low-voltage CMOS (LVCMOS), subscriber identification modules (SIM), small computer systems interface (SCSI), and the VersaModule Eurocard bus (VMEbus). Network and communication chips that use peripheral component interconnect (PCI), compact PCI (cPCI), and PCI Express (PCIe) are also available.

Types of Technology Supported

Network and communication chips support many different types of serial and wireless technologies. Serial technologies for communication chips include RS232, RS422, RS485, serial peripheral interface (SPI), universal serial bus (USB), and USB on-the-go (USB OTG) or USB 2.0. Wireless technologies for network and communication chips include code division multiple access (CDMA), wide band code division multiple access (WCDMA), wireless fidelity (WiFi) or IEEE 802.11, worldwide interoperability for microwave access (WiMAX) or IEEE 802.16, wireless mesh (Wi-Mesh), and ZigBee or IEEE 802.15.4. Bluetooth® chips provide wireless connectivity in solution-on-chip (SoC) platforms that power short-range radio communication applications. Bluetooth is a registered trademark of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), a trade association that establishes Bluetooth standards for manufacturers. Wireless communication chips are often described as using 3G or 4G technologies. Third generation or 3G technologies for network and communication chips include universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS), enhanced data rates for global evolution (EDGE), and global system for global communication (GSM). The 4G standard is based solely on packet switching, whereas 3G is based on a combination of circuit and packet switching.

Device Types and Applications

Network and communication chips differ in terms of device types and applications. Some products are used as buffers, framers, front-ends, isolators, link layer controllers, media access controllers (MAC), or physical layer controllers (Phy controllers). Others are used as powerline networking devices, protectors, receivers, repeaters, radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, sample rate converters, serializers-deserializers (SerDes), subscriber line interface circuits (SLIC), storage interfaces, transmitters, transceivers, terminators, or universal asynchronous receiver/transmitters (UART). Network and communication chips such as voice-over-IP (VoIP) interfaces, ZigBee coordinators, ZigBee routers, ZigBee end-devices are also available.

Performance Specifications

Performance specifications for network and communication chips include data rate, operating current, power dissipation and temperature junction. Many different IC package types are available. Examples include ball-grid array (BGA), chip-scale package (CSP), quad flat package (QFP), small outline package (SOP), and dual in-line package (DIP). In terms of features, communication chips that are designed for the European marketplace must comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive from the European Union (EU). Some network and communication chips have an integrated charge pump or joint test action group (JTAG) pin. Others provide protection against electrostatic discharge (ESD), high temperatures, or over-voltage conditions.


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