Motorola is fuelling a race among hand-held communications device makers, with the release of system-on-a-chip designs that combine next-generation wireless systems in one product. The new silicon products also are expected to breathe life back into the moribund semiconductor market because they will enable manufacturers to accelerate development of cheaper and smarter hand-held devices. 'What we are delivering to the market are products with higher performance, higher integration, and more flexibility. Motorola leads a handful of semiconductor companies that have the resources for full system-on-a-chip development,' said Pern Shaw, director at Motorola's Suzhou design centre, part of the company's semiconductor unit for wireless communications. Mr Shaw said Motorola's mainland semiconductor engineers had designed system-on-a-chip products that could support personal digital assistants (PDAs) with GPRS (general packet radio services) communications networks. The mainland-based semiconductor design team also is forging ahead with plans to integrate Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless local area network technologies in mobile handsets and PDAs, which should be available next year. GPRS, a 2.5G technology based on the GSM (global system for mobile) cellular standard, offers 115 kilobits per second speed for wireless Internet and other data-based communications. Bluetooth is a low-cost radio specification to link devices with each other and the Internet. The 802.11b standard operates at the 24 gigahertz radio spectrum and usually provides data speeds from 5.5 megabits to 11 megabits per second. 'We will be working soon on new HiP7 designs for the China market. These will serve as the digital DNA for future hand-held products,' Mr Shaw said. Unveiled in April in the United States, HiP7 technology is the latest development in Motorola's continuous scaling of complementary metal-oxide semiconductor process technology, or 0.13-micron production platform. Motorola claimed HiP7 was the only technology with the flexibility to produce myriad system-on-a-chip products for applications spanning low-power wireless to high-performance networking and computing devices. That feature comes from HiP7's use of plug-in modules in the design and manufacturing process. These support high-density embedded memory, high-precision analogue components, high-performance transistors and modular radio frequency integration. Mr Shaw said system-on-a-chip configurations helped reduce overall system cost and put new products out quicker - a feature that would benefit Motorola's mobile-handset business and chip makers Palm, Sony and Legend Computer. Motorola recently made available embedded 2.5G and 3G semiconductor software technology to mobile communications product makers to address what Gartner predicts as a US$35 billion market by 2004. Samsung Electronics announced plans to launch hand-held products that would combine GPRS and code division multiple access cellular standards with Bluetooth and 802.11b connectivity. Despite Samsung's time-to-market lead, Mr Shaw said Motorola had more experience and technologies to better integrate multiple wireless communications systems in one product. According to Dataquest, Motorola was the largest supplier in the communications semiconductor sector last year, selling more than US$4 billion chips to gain a 41.5 per cent global market share. Motorola's communications semiconductor products include PowerPC host processors, C-5 network processors, PowerQuicc integrated communications processors, DragonBal processors, and radio frequency and baseband transceivers based on gallium-arsenide technology. Mr Shaw said demand for next-generation mobile phones and PDAs powered by the HiP7-based Motorola chips should help the semiconductor market gather momentum and rebound from the economic downturn, which had seen chip makers suffer from delayed or cancelled orders. 'We are hopeful this turnaround will occur next year,' he said. Cahners In-Stat Group forecasts system-on-a-chip demand will be strong over the next few years, reaching total worldwide sales of 1.3 billion units in 2004. It said communications products were the leading market segment for system-on-a-chip products, consuming 576 million units in 2004.