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Comms chips

Cicada Clicks With GigE Controllers

Cicada Semiconductor Inc. is expanding beyond physical-layer devices into Gigabit Ethernet controllers, via a part designed by VIA Networking Technology Inc., a subsidiary of Taiwanese firm VIA Technologies Inc. (see Cicada, VIA Make GigE Controllers).

Yesterday, Cicada announced availability of the Velocity line of controllers, which combines Cicada's physical-layer (PHY) part with VIA's media access controller (MAC) and software.

The technology help is nice, but Cicada officials also want to use VIA's marketing channels, "especially in PC motherboards," says Phil Callahan, Cicada director of marketing. VIA supplies the chips that go around a PC microprocessor, giving the Taiwan-based firm an in with all the major PC vendors.

The hope is to draw Cicada into more client devices, Callahan says. Thus far, most of the company's business has been in infrastructure boxes like Ethernet switches.

It makes sense that Cicada would want a partner, considering the Gigabit Ethernet competition includes some heavy hitters: Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) among them.

"As we've seen with Agere's acquisition of Massana, the smaller players in the space are looking for people to partner up with. And the Asian equipment makers have been more open to working with smaller players than the U.S. OEMs have been," says analyst Sam Lucero of In-Stat/MDR (see Agere Goes Gaga Over Gig-E).

On the controller side, Intel carries an enormous market share, because it supplies controllers for its own Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards (NICs). Intel dominates that market with roughly 60 percent share, according to In-Stat.

Add the presence of Broadcom and Marvell, and it's clear the controller market will be "tough for VIA and Cicada to crack," Lucero says. But he thinks Cicada found a good partner in VIA, considering the latter's connections: "This is going to be a good move."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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