Comms chips

VDSL2 Fight Begins

As expected, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) ratified the VDSL2 standard late last week, setting the stage for the next round of DSL chip competition (see ITU OKs VDSL2 Standard).

The new standard specifies speeds from 70-Mbit/s downstream and 30-Mbit/s upstream to symmetrical 100-Mbit/s delivery.

Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX) was quick to the punch, immediately launching Vinax, a chipset to handle VDSL2 and ADSL2+, and claiming to be alone in offering an "end-to-end" standards-compliant VDSL2 product line (see Infineon Launches VDSL2, Infineon Preps for VDSL2, and We're in the Money).

But officials at startup Ikanos Communications Inc. say their chips comply with the newborn standard too, including the provision that the chips must be backwards-compatible with ADSL2+. That's a feature that's been in the Ikanos chips for some time, says Dean Grumlose, Ikanos vice president of marketing.

Infineon is countering that its extensive experience with ADSL -- Ikanos is a younger company selling VDSL chips -- gives it the edge, both in terms of technology and business. "All of our ADSL2+ customers are looking at VDSL," says Imran Hajimusa, Infineon's director of marketing for access ICs.

One player not ready with a chipset yet is Metalink Ltd. (Nasdaq: MTLK), although the company was involved in the standards work. "We are very supportive of the standard and the choice of line code," says Ron Cates, associate vice president of sales and business development.

That last part refers to choice of discrete multitone (DMT) as the VDSL2 line code. Metalink and Infineon had based their VDSL chips on an alternative called quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM), which was included in the original VDSL standard but was pushed aside for VDSL2 after a long fight (see QAM vs DMT Battle Lingers On).

The choice was no surprise; Cates points out that Metalink has known about the DMT selection for a year and a half. For Infineon, it was enough time to defect to DMT for its VDSL2 chipset.

Metalink hasn't launched its VDSL2-compliant chipset yet, but Cates says the company is "taking its time" to add some extras to its offering. For example, Metalink had been pushing for the standard to provide 20-Mbit/s speeds at distances of 6,000 feet. "Because of the absence of advanced coding, we don't believe [strictly standard VDSL2] is going to be able to meet those kinds of reaches," Cates says.

Metalink isn't giving a timeframe for the release of its VDSL2 chipset.

Ikanos and Metalink have been slugging it out in Asia, particularly Korea, where the companies' chips are at the root of advertised 100-Mbit/s DSL offerings (see VDSL Races to 100 Mbit/s). Infineon might join that race as well, as it claims Vinax handles symmetric 100-Mbit/s speeds as well.

VDSL might also find a foothold in North America, where some U.S. RBOCs think the technology could fit with fiber-to-the-curb buildouts.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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