Dr Pallab Chatterjee
CIO and Sr VP, Semiconductor Group, Texas Instruments Inc.
Dr Pallab Chatterjee started his career with
Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) and has been with the company for 22 years-a rare sight in an
industry known for its high rate of manpower turnover. After doing his BTech in
electronics and communications from IIT Kharagpur, he went on to do his MSEE and PhD from
the University of Illinois, US. In 1976, he joined TI and has held various positions,
including that of VP/Director (R&D), Senior VP and CTO (Semiconductor Group) and
Director (R&D/Technology), and President (Personal Productivity Products). Last year
he was promoted as the CIO of the semiconductor giant. In an interview with DATAQUEST
Dr Chatterjee discussed the DSP market worldwide.
DSP is an oft-used terminology in
the IT Industry. Would you explain it?
DSP stands for Digital Signal Processor. It is an integrated circuit which enables
processing of information real-time. TI is a pioneer in the DSP market, where it entered
way back in 1982. The company is unique among semiconductor companies in its ability to
design DSP cores and integrate the central processor, analog, logic, memory, and other
functions on a common ASIC backplane.
How is DSP different from
conventional analog technologies?
Let us understand DSP’s difference from a general microprocessor, through an orchestra
example where the showman has knowledge of different musical instruments and can play a
little bit of the violin, or keyboard for that matter, besides managing the whole show.
Such a versatile showmanship can be related to a general microprocessor. Wherein a DSP is
a conductor which is like an individual artist doing specific and specialized task of
conducting the orchestra alone. Technically speaking, DSP enables conversion from analog
to digital instantaneously.
What are the areas where DSP
applications have been called upon?
DSP has become the byword for a range of products in communications, industrial, consumer,
instrumentation, automotive, computing, and military applications. These include
energy-saving motor controls, security systems, voice-recognition devices, Hard Disk
Drives (HDDs), settop boxes, and digital cellular telephones. In addition, the digital
revolution is responsible for the convergence of IT, telecom, and entertainment, thus
generating entirely new markets in multimedia, videoconferencing, cable and satellite
broadcasting, and related applications. DSP plays a role in everything that takes
How would you illustrate the
difference between DSP and analog technologies?
In the first-generation of cellular phones, there were analog which can be affected by
changes in temperature, humidity etc. In the analog phone, others could hear the speaker’s
conversation. In the digital system, there is privacy which is a big step from the user
point of view. From the service provider’s point of view, in a limited bandwidth, DSP
helps getting more channels for the same coding. This technology has allowed metros to
meet the cellular demand.
What are the distinct advantages of
DSP over analog technologies?
Digital implementation has several distinct advantages. Digital components give the same
reading every time, ensuring predictability and repeatability. Production costs are lower
than with the analog devices that must be individually adjusted. Design time is reduced
because DSPs are programmable, so designers can use standard off-the-shelf devices.
Re-programmability enables a processor to be upgraded or reconfigured for different
algorithms at little cost. Similarly, digital systems are far less sensitive to
environmental changes like humidity, temperature, and age than analog components. Pin
count does not increase with the increase in functionality in digital ones. When features
are added to an analog design, more components are needed, but with a digital device only
a few more instructions are required.
How is the networked society
enabled by DSP solutions?
The emergence of Internet as a global medium is changing the way we work, learn, and play.
The growth of Internet is phenomenal, and it really has enabled the ability to access
information through a single-medium open door like never before. Content, commerce, and
collaboration are undergoing dramatic transformation. And here DSP assumes the most
crucial role in the networked society. Henceforth, security, bandwidth, and scalability
all will depend on DSPs.
Would you explain it?
Encryption technology is rapidly becoming affordable as it is made possible by DSPs. In
bandwidth too, compression and modulation technology are continuously increasing last-mile
bandwidth. SONET and ATM are making breakthroughs in backbone bandwidth. Undoubtedly, all
of this is enabled by DSPs. Internet2 and NGI projects are aiming at 100x bandwidth
increase. In scalability, DSP will ensure that a billion people are connected by the turn
of the century, and make the global village a reality.
What is the market size for DSPs?
The worldwide marketshare for DSPs in 1997 was $ 5 billion and it is expected to grow by
10 times touching $ 50 billion by 2005 AD. TI created the first single-chip DSP in 1982,
and today the company is the market leader with its largest installed base of DSPs. We
enjoy a marketshare of 45 percent, and are twice as big as the nearest competitor. Some
other players in the field are Analog Devices, Lucent Technologies, and Motorola.
What is the awareness level of DSPs
There is an awareness about DSPs. But not as good as we would like it to be. We are trying
to create it. We are completely focusing on DSP solutions and are launching various
awareness campaigns. We are promoting DSP as our unique selling proposition. That apart,
we are providing opportunities, through our venture capital funding of $ 100 million, to
initial startups complementing the DSP business. We have also increased the university
funding around the world to get students and professionals involved in research in DSP
What is the available funding in
India for R&D activity on DSPs?
TI India is engaged in the design of DSPs and DSP applications, mixed-signal products, and
associated EDA software and ASIC libraries. Some of the strategic tie-ups in India for
research work include those with IISc Bangalore and IITs in Kanpur, Kharagpur, and Delhi.
About Rs 30 lakh was invested in these projects in India last year. And this year
(1997-98), the funding has been increased to Rs 1 crore. The TI India Center will have
global alignments. We also plan to expand our human resource base to 800 professionals by
the current financial year end.
What are the trends in the DSP
Speed and demand for faster capabilities. In all electronics and consumer electronics,
what is emerging as a trend is the need for faster capability. Modems with 86 MHz/s are
coming up in the XTSL range. In cellulars, there are two vectors-talk time and battery
life, and size. In HDD, it is from single coding to PRML.
What are TI’s pathbreaking
contributions to DSP?
TI created DSP is a pathbreaking contribution in itself. There are other firsts such as
modem and disk drive applications. We are making DSP a programmable solution, which too is
a significant contribution. We are also building more features for the chip.