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Analog revs communications chip

The chip incorporates six digital signal processors, which will help companies cut equipment costs.

Analog Devices unveiled a new chip yesterday that promises to allow manufacturers of high-end communications equipment to introduce servers that will cut equipment costs for Internet service providers.

The chip incorporates six digital signal processors (DSPs) onto a single chip, where formerly the company offered just one. The chips won't increase bandwidth for end users, but they might lead to fewer busy signals when customers dial in to their ISPs--a major complaint among consumers.

"Analog Devices is not biggest player in the modem world, but what they have been able to do is really innovative in terms of density and functionality," said Shannon Pleasant, a chip industry analyst with Cahners In-Stat.

"The challenge is to be able to continue to provide incremental services and density without adding cost," she said, cautioning that it would be hard for ADI to keep its technological lead in the modem chip market.

"They are by themselves today, but the window of opportunity is always shrinking," she said. So far, it's worthwhile to continue to pursue the market because Internet usage is continuing to expand rapidly, but Rockwell, Texas Instruments, and 3Com are the big players in the market and are working to match ADI's technology.

The addition of the extra DSPs onto one chip means that a server can offer six times as many dial-in ports compared to previous-generation equipment, with lower-cost equipment translating into potentially lower service costs.

For instance, remote access equipment using the new chips would offer ISPs cost savings benefits such as the ability to offer more dial-in lines without having to increase the amount of space used to house the equipment, resulting in cost savings that could be passed along to consumers and businesses with remote offices.

Additionally, the chips contain technology that automatically detects the type of incoming call. Companies such as Ascend can build remote access servers that don't have separate cards for each type of service such as analog 56-kbps dial-up and ISDN, resulting in up to 50 percent lower equipment administration costs for ISPs, ADI claimed.

Technology for sending faxes and voice communications over the Net are also possible with the same chip, potentially allowing many more ISPs to offer low-cost services based on standard IP Internet communications protocols.

"The fundamental core of the processor is the same" as an earlier chip, the ADSP-21mod870, that included just one DSP, said Bob Fine, a product line manager with ADI. "This year, we are taking a single DSP and packaging it in a multi-chip module" and adding more on-chip memory, he noted.

The ADSP-21mod970 is currently sampling and will be available to OEM manufacturers by the end of the month. The chip is priced at $208 in quantities of 10,000.