UK Tech Week: TI predicts major growth in mobile comms

Economic not technological barriers stand in the way of widespread digital communications use, according to Texas Instruments' (TI) European president William Richardson.

In his keynote speech at UK Technology Week, Richards predicted that in two years time all mobile phones will have Global Positioning Systems (GPS), users will be able to tailor their phones using programmable chips and digital modems will be ubiquitous in the UK. But, he warned: "Only if industry players share a common goal and vision of the network."

"Last year, more cellular phones than PCs were sold. But today's phones are limited as they're tailored for voice communication. Customer profiles are changing and users want better communications devices that can be upgraded and used in London and New York," he said.

TI is pushing heavily into the programmable digital signal processing (DSP) market. Richardson told ZDNet today that the company has a world first with the launch of a new device -- its DSP 320C6 family -- that performs 2 billion operations per second and has common instruction set for floating and fixed point maths. "Common code for floating and fixed point has never been done before. One of the exciting applications I see for this family is medical imaging, where the DSP manipulates CAT scans of the human body." Richards added.

The programmable DSP drive is part of TI's strategy to buffer itself against the effects of the shrinking global chip market. The company has divested much of its hardest-hit memory chip business: most recently it sold its DRAM business to Micron Technology. Richards hinted that acquisitions in the DSP field were likely.

"DSP is the single fastest growing segment of the chip industry. While the world chip market shrinks by 10 to 15%, we expect the European market to grow. The electronics industry here is focusing heavily on communications. The European economy is pretty robust by world comparisons," Richards said.

Richards also warned that take-up of digital modems would be thwarted unless industry players share the same vision. TI's ambitious forecast for digital modems puts the number of devices at 18 million by 2001. In the UK, Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology will be deployed in volume by 2001.

"European companies are finding that to increase productivity levels requires communications networks that enable them to compete. At the moment, Europe is ahead of the US in terms of ADSL trials."