On The Move



The semiconductor industry was waiting for consolidation of chip-to-chip interfaces but saw more interfaces being introduced in recent years. This may change with interface IP standardization for mobile electronics lead by MIPI alliance specifications.

USB3.0 Promoters Group needed a low power and high throughput PHY to enable chip-to-chip super speed and connector-less connectivity. The colalboration between USB3.0 Promoters Group and MIPI alliance was expected, see announcement here.

JEDEC had similar need in the past and had to select a platform for low power high throughput chip-to-chip connectivity for next generation storage interfaces. JEDEC selected MIPI M-PHY and Unipro specifications for their UFS v1.0 standard. See announcement here.

The MIPI alliance M-PHY can potentially become the de-facto Physical layer for all high complexity mobile applications. Coupled with Unipro or other protocol specific link layer it provides network of devices in the system which could achieve modular and effective architecture for scalable mobile electronics platforms.

Here’s a simplistic view of M-PHY usage for LLI, DigRFv4, CSI3, DSI2 and UFS. The SSIC spec will allow the M-PHY to hook up to USB3.0 link layer.

This collaboration is excellent to both USB3.0 Promoters Group and MIPI alliance. USB3.0 Promoters Group now have access to mature low power high throughput specification which is expected to get wide adoption. MIPI alliance can now see its M-PHY specification used in one of the most popular interfaces in the industry with a robust and mature eco-system and followers everywhere.

How does this SSIC / M-PHY standard affect other chip-to-chip interfaces by MIPI alliance or USB3.0 Promoters Group?

My take is that SSIC is complementary to other chip-to-chip standards. HSIC will still be used for lower bandwidth chip-to-chip needs as it’ll be more economical. MIPI LLI and MIPI DigRFv4 have differentiating needs which address specific system requirements. SSIC allows super speed connectivity for more general purpose chip-to-chip connectivity as well as re-using the USB protocol and software investment. Furthermore, USB’s broad reach will help SSIC and M-PHY get adoption beyond pure mobile electronics.

SSIC is expected to be royalty free to all adopter-level members of the MIPI Alliance and the USB 3.0 Promoters group per the MIPI licensing guidelines. Vendors that would like to use the MIPI specification outside the MIPI-defined application space could license the technology on a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) basis.

The press release mentioned that the SSIC specification will be available to USB adopters in early 2012 so there is time to follow this development. USB3.0 Promoters Group’s SSIC and JEDEC’s UFS collaboration with MIPI alliance shows the importance of standardization in mobile electronics. It is also an evidence to the unique specifications created by the MIPI alliance targeting design attributes such as low power, high throughput, scalability and expandability, low EMI, low pin count that are important for mobile electronics.

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