Marvell jumps gun on Gigabit Ethernet for cars

October 21, 2015 // By Junko Yoshida
Marvell has won the race to a Gigabit automotive Ethernet PHY transceiver chip that can be shown off to car OEMs and Tier Ones. Called 88Q2112, it is compliant with the draft IEEE 802.3bp 1000BASE-T1 standard.

The automotive industry has only begun to embrace the automotive Ethernet standard . The technology called “BroadR-Reach,” defined by OPEN Alliance industry group and designed to enable 100 Megabit per second data distribution inside the car, is getting designed into some cars. Meanwhile, the IEEE is turning the BroadR-Reach technology—originally developed by Broadcom—into a formal IEEE standard called 100BASE-T1.

Unlike Broadcom or NXP, though, Marvell isn’t a member of the OPEN Alliance, and the company is yet to launch commercial 100Mbps automotive Ethernet products.

Marvell’s pre-emptive move to push its gigabit Ethernet solution based on IEEE’s draft 1000BASE-T1 spec appears to suggest that the company is planning to leapfrog 100BASE-T1.

That, however, isn’t Marvell’s intention at all, stressed Alexander Tan, Marvell’s automotive solutions group product line manager. Rather, he said, “We see 100BASE-T1 and 1000BASE-T1 are complementary to each other. We want to offer to architects at carmakers and Tier Ones a full portfolio of automotive Ethernet solutions.”

The goal is to promote an automotive Ethernet that allows multiple in-vehicle systems to simultaneously access information over unshielded single twisted pair cable, he explained. Both IEEE standards—100BASE-T1 and 1000BASE-T1—use single-pair of wires, reducing weight and cost.

Marvell will demonstrate both single-pair automotive Ethernet solutions—one based on the draft 100BASE-T1 specification and another on the draft 1000BASE-T1—at a show called “ the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Ethernet & IP @ Automotive Technology Day 2015 ” in Japan later this month. 

Kevin Mak, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, described Marvell’s new gigabit Ethernet chip as “aiming to lower cost for gigabit-speed Ethernet, and, in turn, be an enabling technology for autonomous driving developments.”

He added, “Marvell will be first to market, but rivals will also be launching their devices in due course.”

Where inside a car will 1000BASE-T1 go?
Marvell sees a backplane of the vehicle network as one of the first places where 1000BASE-T1 will find its home.

Tan explained that a