China develops its own DSP

Researchers at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University independently create a digital signal processor, another milestone in the growth of the Chinese chip industry.

Researchers at China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University have independently created a digital signal processor, another milestone in the growth of the Chinese chip industry.

Digital signal processors (DSPs) are one of the crucial components in cell phones, digital cameras and consumer-electronics products. The chips take analog data--voice, music and images--that have been converted into the 1s and 0s of the digital world and fine-tune it. Other components then manipulate the data and restore it to its original form. Texas Instruments has long been a leader in the market.

The chip, called the HISYS No. 1, provides about the same performance as midrange chips from Western manufacturers, according to university officials, but it potentially could become a competitive player over time. China is the world's largest cell phone market. Since 2000, foreign manufacturers have sold around $1.2 billion worth of DSPs into China, according to estimates.

The government and private companies also are investing heavily into transforming the country into a global center for semiconductor manufacturing.

"I hope domestic vendors will support homemade chips," said Shengwu Xie, a professor at the university. "A Taiwanese vendor has placed an order for 300,000 chips." He also acknowledged, however, that there are still drawbacks in HISYS No. 1 in terms of performance.

The underlying intellectual property, which includes chip design, packaging and manufacturing, on the HISYS was independently developed, the university said. Earlier this year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences unveiled a microprocessor targeted at Linux computers.

Professor Jin Chen led the effort, which took approximately two years. The 16-bit chip runs at 200MHz. Six national patents have been applied for this project. An experimental 24-bit version also has been developed but not yet used, and a 32-bit version will be completed by the end of the year. The 16-bit chip was made on the 180-nanometer manufacturing process, which is fairly advanced for the Chinese market.

ZDNet China's Ken Gao reported from Beijing.

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