New Chips to Boost Gigabit Ethernet Switch Market

Broadcom this week announced a new set of Gigabit Ethernet chips aimed at moving the speedy interface down into small and mid-sized businesses and even into the SOHO market.

Broadcom Corp. on Monday introduced a family of Gigabit Ethernet switch chips that the company designed for the small and medium-sized business market. The chips may let switch vendors offer a new class of less-expensive, down-sized products.

The new ROBO-HS family is designed to enable switches with 4 to 24 ports with a single chip, and to allow OEMs to design two-chip, 48-port switches for larger businesses.

In 2001, Broadcom introduced its first Gigabit Ethernet switch product, and to date Broadcom has marketed its products to enterprise customers. Now that PCs increasingly include Gigabit Ethernet networking cards, the company has decided to push Gigabit Ethernet switches down into the SMB space, according to Claus Stetter, product line manager for switching products.

"Weve now reached a stage in the enterprise market where price is becoming more of a factor, and thats our forte, getting cost of these products," Stetter said.

Switches with 4 to 8 ports will be aimed at SOHO and new consumer applications, Stetter said. The new chips will allow OEMs to design ultracompact products. At the forthcoming Computex Taipei 2003 show in Taiwan, Broadcom will demonstrate a third-party four-port switch scarcely larger than the four connectors used to create it, Stetter said. All of the chips run at wire speed, with 4,000 MAC addresses on chip and 128KB of buffer memory.

Meanwhile, its 24-port chip was specifically designed to let customers set physically the speed of each port. This would allow an apartment manager, for example, to meter the bandwidth allocated for each tenant, Stetter said.

Broadcoms new ROBO-HS product family will begin general sampling to OEMs in October 2003, with contract manufacturers shipping their first designs later in the fourth quarter. Volume production will begin in the first quarter of 2004, Stetter said.

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