Broadcom Buys Element 14
Last week, adding to its long list of recent acquisitions, Broadcom Corp. made moves to acquire British low-power DSL chipset maker Element 14 in a stock deal worth $594 million.
"We have a grand vision for Broadcom . clearly articulated by our fearless leader," said Cyrus Namazi, Broadcom DSL business director, as he described what has motivated the Broadcom bulldozer to close its 14th acquisition to date.
More prosaically, the purchase adds DSL expertise to Broadcom's local, metropolitan and wide-area network, voice, video and home-networking capabilities.
|Henry T. Nicholas III, Broadcom's president and CEO|
Founded in 1999, Element 14 is a privately held, fabless semiconductor company with headquarters in Cambridge, England, with additional design centers in Bristol, England, and Mechelen, Belgium.
Element 14 has a team of 68 people focused on DSL system design, mixed signal design and DSP design for communications applications. The company has been granted or has filed applications for 19 patents, according to Broadcom.
More than that, Element 14 has the cream of the crop of engineers prized out of Alcatel's DSL, STMicroelectronics's MCU and ARM's design teams, making Element 14 "the hottest processor tool and application team on the planet," said Stan Boland, Element 14's chief executive officer.
Crucially, the company is developing the industry's first 12-port, full-rate ADSL for the central office (CO). The transceiver chipsets in the CO convert high-frequency analog signals from multiple DSL connections into packets and cells and aggregate these for transmission on high-speed backbones.
Element 14 has managed to develop DSL silicon with the world's highest port density and claims its 450 MHz FirePath DSP core, based on an ARM legacy core, is 50 percent more powerful with five times the power efficiency of the next best core, Boland said.
Texas Instruments disputes this, said Henry Wiechman, the company's C6000 marketing manager, because Element 14 bases its claims on a single algorithm called mega-integrated multiply accumulate resources (Mega MACs). On this measure, the Firepath is 50 percent more powerful than TI's C64xx chip running at 600MHz, but MegaMACs do not translate into per channel performance. Secondly, TI disputes any power efficicency comparison because the company has not released any power-consumption figures for its C64xx.
Combined with Broadcom's networking expertise, the company thinks adding Element 14's technology will enable feature-rich, highly integrated ADSL customer premises equipment, opening the way for the deployment of cost-effective ADSL residential gateways.
"We believe this acquisition will position Broadcom as a leader in the ADSL market," said Henry T. Nicholas III, Broadcom's president and CEO.