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Accelerating Adoption of MEMS Timing

Recently there have been two major announcements in the MEMS (microelectromechanical system) oscillator market. Market leader SiTime breaks into high-precision OCXO timing with Stratum 3 compliant solutions; and Integrated Device Technology Inc. (IDT) jumps into the MEMS oscillator market with a piezoelectric MEMS resonator.

SiTime has introduced the SiT5301 and SiT5302, which address the highest-performance applications for timing devices. SiTime is targeting replacement of OCXO and TCXO quartz oscillators for the telecom and networking infrastructure market. The Stratum 3 oscillators have very stringent standards for frequency stability over temperature, 24-hour holdover, and 20-year stability. SiTime's SiT530x family offers shock resistance 10 times better than quartz and 7 times better on vibration. However, what is very notable is a reliability/MTBF rating of 500 million hours. This is 25 times higher than quartz. This is a key advantage for SiTime's MEMS oscillator, since the target applications have long lifecycles, and customers want to reduce service calls. Another key feature is that power consumption is less than 75 mW, compared to quartz OCXO at more than 1 Watt. SiTime will have samples in December 2011, with production in the first half of 2012. IDT is a supplier of timing circuits, but this is its first entry into the MEMS area. The pMEMS resonator has been in development since 2007. The company claims it is the smallest hermetically sealed wafer level package (WLP) resonator. IDT also states that it is offering the first commercially available oscillators incorporating piezoelectric MEMS resonators. IDT has demonstrated the long-term frequency stability of its pMEMS resonator. The company is also touting the extremely small size and targeting consumer, communications, and cloud computing applications. This is a technology announcement; product announcements are expected over the next few months, with full production in 2012. Currently IDT is sampling its pMEMS oscillator evaluation boards to qualified customers. Semico Spin The total oscillator market is about $3 billion, but MEMS has a very small penetration. For the most part, MEMS oscillator vendors have taken an opportunistic strategy by supplying their products in standard quartz packages, which allows them to be an easy drop-in replacement. The latest offerings from SiTime and IDT offer many advantages over quartz. MEMS oscillators have lower cost, lower power consumption, configurable frequency, and improved reliability and stability. It has not been easy getting designers in established products to consider an alternative to quartz, because quartz has been around a long time. However, in addition to the standard quartz packages, both SiTime and IDT are taking advantage of the small size of MEMS and offering new innovative packages that are extremely small. This will open up opportunities for MEMS oscillators in new applications. IDT is a supplier of traditional timing circuits, including crystal oscillators. This could give the company sales opportunities with existing customers.

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