Major DRAM Breakthrough Sparks Licensing Deal

Santa Clara, Calif., USA and Icheon, Korea: Recognized as the first fundamental DRAM bitcell change since the invention of the DRAM in the early 1970s, Innovative Silicon’s (ISi) Z-RAM-based DRAMs use a single transistor bitcell rather than a combination of transistors and capacitor elements.

The Z-RAM’s single-transistor (1T) bitcell architecture is made possible by harnessing the floating body effect found in circuits fabricated using SoI (silicon-oninsulator) wafers. Moreover, since Z-RAM takes advantage of a naturally occurring SoI effect, Z-RAM doesn’t require exotic process changes to build capacitors or other complex structures within the memory bitcell.

Moving quickly on this new development, Hynix Semiconductor struck a deal with ISi, in which Hynix will license Z-RAM for use in its DRAM chips. “ZRAM promises to provide an elegant approach to manufacture dense DRAMs on nanometer processes,” says Sung-Joo Hong, VP of the R&D Division at Hynix. “We see the potential to create a new platform of products based on ISi’s innovation of Z-RAM that will help us maintain and grow our leadership position in the memory market.”

“Hynix’s decision to collaborate with ISi is additional validation of the strength and commercial viability of our Z-RAM memory technology,” says Mark-Eric Jones, ISi CEO, “particularly since Hynix is a dominant player in the memory IC market and its products are used in a vast array of electronic devices, including PCs, servers, workstations, graphic cards, as well as handheld devices.”

Z-RAM was initially developed as a low-cost embedded memory technology for logic-based ICs, such as mobile chipsets, microprocessors, networking, and other consumer applications. The technology was first licensed in December 2005 by AMD for microprocessor designs.

Texas Instruments acquires RF design company
Dallas, Texas: To help shore up its low-power RF portfolio, Texas Instruments purchased radio-frequency and IC design company Integrated Circuit Designs (ICD). This follows the acquisition of Chipcon, a provider of shortrange, low-power RF transceivers for ZigBee-compliant and proprietary- based wireless systems.

“With the rapidly growing demand for industrial, commercial and residential systems to incorporate more short-range wireless technology, it is important for TI to provide a broad portfolio of innovative RF devices,” says David Jones, Precision Analog business manager at TI. “The addition of ICD‚s design expertise will complement our existing low-power wireless business and enhance our ability to offer customers complete RF solutions.”

Joint 3G effort widens its scope
Espoo, Finland and Geneva, Switzerland: Mobile-phone company Nokia and STMicro-electronics will deepen their collaboration on the licensing and supply of IC designs and modem technologies for 3G developments. The two companies also are negotiating a plan to transfer a part of Nokia’s IC operations to STMicroelectronics. The multifaceted agreement will enable STMicroelectronics to design and manufacture 3G chipsets based on Nokia’s modem technologies, energy management, and radiofrequency technology.

Simultaneously, the two companies are negotiating Nokia’s IC operations transfer plan and accordingly, in order to reorganise and affect the planned competence transfer, Nokia will start the personnel consultation process required by local regulations with its personnel representatives. The transfer, which will likely affect approximately 200 Nokia employees in Finland and the U.K., is estimated to take place during the fourth quarter 2007.

Nokia also awarded ST a design win of an advanced 3G HSPA (high-speed packet access) chipset that supports high data rates, which would be the first contribution of the acquired IC design operations. This design win represents ST’s first win of a complete 3G chipset.

“We are excited about the possibilities that the intended IC technology transfer will bring us,” says Tommi Uhari, executive vice president and general manager of STMicroelectronics’ Mobile, Multimedia & Communications Group. “The intended IC technology transfer, with the world-class engineering skills and licensing of Nokia’s world-leading 3G modem technologies, will enhance our relationship with Nokia and will improve our competitive position.”

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