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TI chip may break Net bottleneck

Texas Instruments introduces a chip that it says will speed access and reduce data bottlenecks on the Internet.

Texas Instruments (TXN) has a new chip that it says will speed access and help reduce data bottlenecks on the Internet.

The new TI chip is a DSP (digital signal processor), which is a more specialized chip than the general-purpose CPUs found in most PCs today. While CPUs can handle a broad range of tasks, DSPs are designed to boost the performance of specific tasks such as communications or audio processing.

TI's chip can process Internet-related communications-specific tasks at a speed of 1.6 billion instructions per second. By comparison, fast Intel chips today run at roughly 200 million instructions per second, a fraction of the speed of the TI chip.

For example, using a modem built around TI's DSP, a file that currently takes ten minutes to download will take less than five seconds, according to the company. TI said specifically that the download speed of video files on the Internet can be greatly increased.

"With this chip, not only will more users be able to log on to the Internet, but they will also be able to download files 120 times faster than today," said Dale Walsh, vice president of advanced development at modem maker U.S. Robotics, in a written statement in support of the new chip.

TI said the chip will be used in both regular modems and also to enable wireless email.

Infrastructure costs for wireless cellular providers is often prohibitive because of the difficulty of finding locations for the ten-by-ten-foot base stations that must be installed across the network.

Using the TI chip, the size of a base station can be shrunk to the size of a shoe box, making it easier to place in high-usage locations. This will also accelerate access to wireless networks, the company claims.

This chip might also be used to make fast modem pools--large groups of modems that handle Internet connections at Internet service providers--and significantly increase their capability to handle Internet traffic at a reasonable cost.

Texas Instruments holds 45 percent of the worldwide DSP market share, a market projected to reach more than $12 billion by the year 2000.