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A communications link

A marriage of convenience for ST Microelectronics and Alcatel. By Vanessa Knivett.

STMicroelectronics has entered the gsm market through a development and supply agreement with Alcatel for its gsm/gprs chipset technology. The transaction involves the transfer of Alcatel's team of mobile phone ic designers, and with it, its IP to ST. Alcatel and ST already are closely connected: this cooperation builds on a long term ic joint development project for various communications applications.

ST's general manager Aldo Romano says of Alcatel's design team: "Their expertise reinforces very well the present activity performed by ST. With this move, ST demonstrates its determination and sustained investment in the field of wireless communication." ST has also announced that it will begin production of chips for use in telecoms wireless infrastructure.

Alcatel, which has announced swingeing job cuts again this month, having been badly hit by the mobile telecoms downturn, will concentrate its efforts on developing mobile 'phone differentiators, such as software, user interface design and styling. However, Alcatel's gsm interests will be guarded as the deal with ST includes a multiyear supply agreement for 2.5G chipsets.

Jacques Combet, director of Alcatel's mobile phone activities, comments: "In the rapidly evolving mobile phone market, we shall see on the one hand chip set suppliers developing the gsm/gprs engine and on the other hand, handset manufacturers like Alcatel focusing their efforts on the integration of technologies aimed at improving the value for the consumer with advanced services, user friendly man machine interface and attractive styling."

In related news, ST is also extending its telecoms chip business with the creation of a wireless communications infrastructure division, to be located in France's telecoms valley in Sophia Antapolis. Leading the division will be Daniel Abecassis, who says: "ST has already proven itself as a world leading semiconductor supplier in the wireless terminal market. Through its innovative product development for terminals, ST has obtained all the necessary technology to address this new market.
The mission now is to build on its strategy that will make ST a world leader for differentiated ics in the wireless infrastructure business." Production of chips for wireless infrastructure such as basestations will begin imminently.

Graham Pitcher

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