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British startup unveils 30ppm all-silicon oscillator, targets smartphone market

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 2:25am
ECN Europe

Manchester, UK-based eoSemi has unveiled its silicon oscillator technology, and announced that it has commenced shipping pre-commercial versions of its first product. The company is working with a small group of key strategic customers and partners. eoSemi's ATOC (Accurate Timing Oscillator Circuit) technology allows the company to offer all-CMOS silicon alternatives to the costly, bulky quartz crystal oscillators that are used in almost every consumer electronic product. ATOC brings together a number of innovations in oscillator design, including proprietary techniques to sense and compensate for changes in temperature and physical stresses within the device. A unique fundamental circuit design allows the oscillator's output frequency to be tuned instantaneously in real-time, and compensates for drift over the lifetime of the device.

Because its devices can be made using standard semiconductor manufacturing technology, eoSemi's products are cheaper, smaller, easier to integrate, more robust and consume less power than competing offerings.

The first product to be based on ATOC technology is a 32kHz timing reference circuit aimed at the smartphone market. eoSemi has already delivered engineering samples of the chip to key customers: commercial production, in an advanced chip-scale package (CSP) measuring just 1.5mm x 1.5mm, will commence in Q3 2012.

Manufactured using a standard CMOS process, the new device draws just 8µA of supply current in active mode and delivers accuracy down to ±30ppm. This combination of specifications, along with an operating temperature range of -40 to +85°C, means that the timing reference will comply with the system design requirements of major 3G handset manufacturers.

eoSemi's immediate focus is on the biggest market for its products: handheld battery powered devices such as mobile phones, smartphones and tablets, worth $800M in 2011. This is also the segment that will benefit most from eoSemi's silicon oscillators: some mobile phone companies have been seeking such technology for over a decade, in an attempt to save PCB area for more valuable functionality and to increase reliability.

The mobile handset segment is notoriously difficult for new market entrants to break into. eoSemi has therefore put in place an innovative partnership strategy with leading silicon companies, that will give major customers access to eoSemi's products through established and trusted supply channels.

“eoSemi has made remarkable progress in commercialising its technology so quickly,” said Mark Sherwood, CEO at specialist industry analyst firm CS &A. “The market has waited a long time for silicon oscillators: it's a challenging technology with remarkable potential. Now it seems that the launch of commercial products may be closer than we thought possible.”

Ian Macbeth, CEO of eoSemi, commented: “Sampling our first products is a significant milestone: now we are demonstrating the power of our core IP in a context that directly addresses a compelling customer problem. This puts us ahead of our plan in terms of both technology development and revenue generation, which is a tremendous testament to the hard work and talent of our team.”

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