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Intel combines chips to boost cell phones

The chip giant will take advantage of a little electronic origami to boost the memory capacity of cellular handsets.

Intel will take advantage of a little electronic origami to boost the memory capacity of cellular handsets.

The chipmaker will use a new packaging technique developed by Tessera to literally fold three memory chips into a single package, using a tape-like material.

Compared with competitive multiple-chip packages, which usually offer two chips and measure about 1.4 millimeters high, Tessera's approach stacks three chips in a package that measures about 1 millimeter high.

This allows handset makers to fit more chips into the same space, a crucial requirement for building next-generation handsets, a Tessera representative said.

Phones are "becoming smaller in size, but at the same time, they require more and more flash memory to support more data-intensive tasks," Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said.

Those tasks will likely evolve from comparatively simple functions such as storing e-mail and contact information to more demanding tasks such as instant messaging.

At a later date, Intel may also use the packaging technique to pair other chips in its portfolio.

The new three-chip packaging technique should lead to a wide variety of combinations of chips from a number of chipmakers. Intel or another company that provides cellular phone chips would be able to combine a variety of chips in a single package.

Companies are likely to create packages that combine processors, memory and digital signal processors chips, in a manner similar to system-on-a-chip processors. System-on-a-chip semiconductors, such as Intel's "Internet on a chip," combine the functions of several chips into a single chip, with the aim of increasing performance and decreasing power consumption.

However, Tessera executives believe three-chip packages consisting of existing chips will be less expensive to develop and will therefore cost less, making them a more likely choice for the cost-sensitive market for low-end phones.

Tessera is an intellectual property company, similar to ARM Holdings or Rambus, in that it designs chip packages and licenses them to chipmakers for fees and royalties.

Tessera will begin licensing its new chip package broadly before the end of the year, company executives said.