SAN JOSE, Calif. Cypress Semiconductor Corp. and ProMOS Technology Inc. will co-develop pseudostatic RAMs based on a one-transistor (1T) cell for use in cell phones and other mobile applications. The partnership gives Cypress access to critical technology for memory that's increasingly used in communications gear.
"As mobile phones go to 3G and provide greater functionality, the amount of memory required increases significantly. We believe that ProMOS' 1T process is the technology of choice for these applications," said Antonio Alvarez, senior vice president for the memory products division of Cypress Semiconductor.
ProMOS will supply its 0.17-micron DRAM process to the co-development effort, while Cypress will provide product designs. Using the DRAM cells, Cypress believes it can deliver a new generation of its MoBL low-power SRAMs later this year that have four times the density of it s current high-end 8-Mbyte parts. And future-generation memories will exceed that level of density while maintaining similar interfaces, speeds and power consumption, said Pashupathy Gopalan, business unit director for Cypress' 1T products.
First products from the deal should be available in the second half of 2002. Though terms of the deal between the two companies have yet to be worked out, Gopalan said, "This is the beginning of a long-term relationship."
In addition to providing greater memory density, the 1T cells provide a 40 percent cost advantage over traditional six-transistor (6T) SRAM designs, Gopalan said. Cypress needs that edge to keep its competitive spot as a supplier to mobile systems makers.
Historical DRAM makers in Japan such as Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp. are already sampling pseudostatic RAMs based on 1T DRAM cells. "Samsung has not announced such a product yet, but we think they have it," Gopalan said.
Cypress' wireless components division does about $160 million in business a year, much of that coming from the MoBL SRAM line. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has the leading market share in that field, Gopalan estimated, followed by Cypress and then the Japanese suppliers.
SRAMs have become very application-specific, but cell phones are "not a trivial market, and the new 1T SRAMs should be a very competitive product for Cypress," said Bob Merritt, analyst with market watcher Semico Research (Phoenix). "It seems that the 1T technology is becoming more and more critical," he said.
The fragmentation in memory types follows on the heels of a similar fragmentation in cellular handsets themselves, which now range from voice-only systems to full PDAs with voice and data capabilities.
"The definition of what a cell phone is has become very broad," said Merritt.
The deal with ProMOS is the second such deal for Cypress aimed at getting access to 1T DRAM cell designs. In October 2001, Cypress announced it would ship a new line of 72-Mbyte bu rst SRAMs for routers and switches using 1T cells from Ramtron International Corp. Those parts are expected to ship in volume in the second quarter of 2002.
The 1T DRAM cells provide a smaller cell design than the traditional 6T SRAM, opening the way higher-density parts. The DRAM cells are organized into an SRAM-like or pseudo SRAM component to maximize the speed of data access for the denser chips.