Comms chips

Intel Readies GigE PHY Chip

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) reportedly is preparing to launch its Gigabit Ethernet physical-layer device (PHY), a long-awaited development that gives the company all the parts it needs to build Gigabit Ethernet modules.

Intel hasn't disclosed the part publicly, but last week's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) was rife with rumors that the new PHY was being shown privately as part of a Gigabit Ethernet board. Intel officials wouldn't confirm whether this was true.

Until now, Intel has acquired its Gigabit Ethernet PHYs from Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL), having been dissatisfied with the part developed by acquiree Level One Communications Inc. Analysts have assumed that Intel would develop its own PHY eventually, but as 2002 came to a close, speculation emerged that Intel had given up on its PHY development (see Is Intel's GigE Chip on Hold?).

It's telling, then, that Intel didn't tout the PHY at IDF, which ordinarily is a showcase for Intel's future plans and products. "No releases, no PowerPoints, no keynotes -- nothing," says Charlie Glavin, a semiconductor analyst with ThinkEquity Partners. "It seemed a little odd."

One possible explanation is that the part isn't quite finished yet. Another is that the PHY is being developed from outside Intel's main communications group.

Glavin doesn't believe the new PHY comes from startups Cicada Semiconductor Inc. or Mysticom Ltd. -- both likely candidates, should Intel try to acquire a PHY maker. Instead, it seems the PHY is a tandem effort between Intel's groups in Oregon and Haifa, Israel -- excluding the original Level One team in Sacramento, Calif.

Meanwhile, Marvell has taken steps to strengthen its own standing in Gigabit Ethernet, preparing for the day when Intel becomes self-sufficient. Marvell launched its Yukon controller late last year, after negotiating to lift the exclusivity restrictions from its Intel contract (see Intel/Marvell: Who Was Stood Up? and Marvell Announces Controller).

Marvell's got plenty of time. During yesterday's earnings call with analysts, Marvell CTO George Hervey noted that it will be several quarters before revenues from Yukon exceed those from Intel -- and in the meantime, he said, Marvell and Intel continue to co-develop future Ethernet products.

Even if Intel had a PHY to ship right now, it wouldn't hurt Marvell for months, Glavin says. That's because the Gigabit Ethernet products that will ship this year are already designed and can't switch to a new Intel controller.

"Not until the end of Marvell's third quarter [ending in October] and maybe into the fourth quarter will revenues from Intel start to drop," he says. Those revenues represent roughly 20 percent of Marvell's total, Glavin estimates.

Overall, analysts still see Marvell as a growing force in Ethernet, as it begins to ship both its Yukon device and its Prestera line of Ethernet switches. In fact, they note that Marvell's likely rival in Ethernet is not Intel, but Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) (see Marvell Readies GigE Attack).

One lingering question is whether Intel will want to integrate Gigabit Ethernet functions into its PC chipset, the devices that accompany every PC microprocessor. It would be a typical move for Intel, but if they try it, Marvell and Broadcom will likely say that it's the wrong move -- in part, because they don't offer PC chipsets.

Glavin notes that Intel might not try to do this, however. Because the PHY is apparently developed from outside Intel's main communications group, attaching it to the chipset would be like introducing a third-party chip to the mix, and the results might not work out.

"It'll be an interesting debate, but it'll be a debate for 2004," he concludes.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

BobbyMax 12/5/2012 | 12:31:42 AM
re: Intel Readies GigE PHY Chip It is hard to say what will the impact be on Intel's entry into the 10Gbe market. Earlier Intel had to tried ADSL, MPEG2 chips. Morerecenly it entered the optical chip business through an acquisition, but nothing came out opf it.

RecentlyIntel is trying yo enter 10 GBE market where a lot of playres exist. While 10Gbe market is incresing and developing specially in the area of edge routers, nternet peering, and intra pop connectivity. Gigabit Ethernet Switches and routers are widely available.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 12:31:41 AM
re: Intel Readies GigE PHY Chip INTC and MSFT executives exclaim publicly that they believe in wireless. They do this because they think the Feds control of RF spectrum and their large bank accounts will put them on an even playing field with the RBOCs.

They are sadly mistaken. They will have no meaningful impact if they choose this path, but rather their legacy will be nothing more than that of a bunch of greedy fools who never learned why they existed on this planet.

Impact will come from leaders who aren't self absorbed and care more about the world than they do about silly vacation homes.
eutectic 12/5/2012 | 12:31:29 AM
re: Intel Readies GigE PHY Chip isnt Intel-Giga,Denmark developing this product?
...from the intel website...
Intel GIGA ApS in Copenhagen, Denmark, supports the Optical Components Division, which specializes in creating ways to make optical networks work faster. Employees here are dedicated to market leadership in optical-physical-layer and transport products, with a focus on three key areas: Physical Medium Dependent (PMD), Physical Medium Access (PMA) and Layer 2.
mugwhump 12/5/2012 | 12:31:26 AM
re: Intel Readies GigE PHY Chip Booby Max- you are either a troll, or the single largest moron around (I suspect the latter)

Do yourself, and the world a favor and shut up.

"It is better to have people wonder if you are a fool, than open your mouth and remove any doubt"
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