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issue: October 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
Single-Chip ADSL Router for Home Networking


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Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) has introduced a fully integrated ADSL access router-on-a-chip that is said to provide enhanced home networking for next-generation devices.

Texas Instruments wanted to be the first company to develop a truly single-chip DSL modem/router that included a line driver, according to Bill Timm, ADSL CPE program manager. The AR7, pictured above, reportedly accomplishes that goal and, in turn, offers designers substantial cost and time savings.

Through the integration of digital and analog functions, as well as power management and hundreds of system components on one piece of silicon, TI says its new AR7 router-on-a-chip enables up to a 25-percent reduction in rest of bill of materials (RBOM) over competitive solutions.

The AR7 combines a MIPS 32-bit RISC processor, a DSP-based digital transceiver, an ADSL analog front end (AFE), including line driver and receiver, and power management, onto a single piece of silicon.

"The System-on-Chip (SOC) design included hundreds of both active and passive system components in a CMOS technology," explains Bill Timm, ADSL CPE program manager. "Texas Instruments has been working for years at this same type of SOC integration for wireless applications such as Bluetooth and cell phones; however, AR7 had some additional design challenges of integrating a 12-V line driver and large capacitors around the line driver into the same silicon."

The result is a router that reportedly delivers 50-percent more processing power and consists of less than half the components of its predecessor, the AR5 ADSL chipset. According to TI, these features can enable OEMs and original design manufacturers (ODMs) to improve their time to market and simplify modem design for next-generation products.

"One of the main features offered to the engineer is the simplification of the design and layout," confirms Mr. Timm. "An ADSL modem contains several very noise-sensitive regions. AR7 integrates many of these regions into the device itself. This provides less variability in performance and simplifies the selection of external discrete components."

The router can also offer ADSL modem manufacturers the flexibility and performance capabilities to help service providers deliver enhanced broadband services such as home networking and gaming more comprehensively and profitably.

The device also has applications in other appliance areas. "The AR7 simplifies the manufacturing of home gateways which, in turn, could be used to communicate to any number of appliances in the home," explains Mr. Timm. "A home gateway would allow for the monitoring and control of security devices, appliances, heat/electric usage, etc. Additionally, the AR7 can communicate to appliances that have a need to access the Internet for content. These appliances could be wireless telephones for VoIP access, video recorders, televisions, etc."

The AR7 runs on Linux and VxWorks operating systems and comes with a network software package. A complete AR7 system solution, including software, hardware, schematics, reference designs, technical support, and maintenance, is also available.

 

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