Microchip Reveals Investment on Ethernet in the 5G Age with New 1.2 Terabit Physical-Layer ICs

June 06, 2019 by Gary Elinoff

Microchip's new Meta-DX1 family incorporates FlexE and MACsec on a single chip.

Microchip's new META-DX1 family incorporates FlexE and MACsec on a single chip.

Ethernet continues to be big business. As the 5G era looms, the industry is gearing up for the challenges that this shift will bring. IEEE has been preparing by making updates to its power-over-Ethernet 802.3 standard in April. Microchip has also been investing in Ethernet. Recently, Microchip announced a new Power-over-Ethernet eight-port switch. Now, just last week, Microchip announced through its subsidiary Microsemi its new META-DX1 family of 1.2Tbps Ethernet Physical-Layer (PHY) devices.

These new units integrate, onto a single chip, Ethernet ports ranging in capacity from 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) to 400 GbE. The new PHYs will enable line cards to support 14.4 Tbps (terabits per second) capacity with 36 ports of 400 GbE or 144 ports of 100 GbE.

The new units offer nanosecond timestamping accuracy at every port even at terabit capacity. This is meant to enable designers to ensure that network buildouts will meet the challenging timing requirements that successful 5G mobile base station deployments will require.


The Microchip Meta-DX1 Family. Image from Microchip


The integrated flexible crosspoint switching capability of the META-DX1 devices is a further advantage to OEMs transitioning from 25 Gbps NRZ and 56 Gbps PAM-based architectures. This facility enables them to support a single design or SKU for both 100 GbE (QSFP28) and 400 GbE (QSFP-DD) optics

FlexE and MACsec on a Single Device

Bob Wheeler, principal analyst for networking at The Linley Group notes that, “The industry foresaw challenges and limitations with traditional fixed-rate Ethernet MACs when scaling data-center interconnects, and it created FlexE as a solution.”

FlexE, or flexible Ethernet, accomplishes this by optimally configuring links beyond today’s fixed-rate Ethernet so they can use low-cost, high-volume optics.

FlexE on a switch or router can also enable the transport portion of the network to choose a wavelength that maximizes the bandwidth efficiency.

These capabilities enable both cloud and telecom service providers to reduce fiber plant capital expenditures. If you're interested, Microchip offers a white paper explaining the Benefits of Flex Ethernet in Cloud and Telecom Service Provider Networks (link opens a PDF). 

MACsec  (Media Access Control) link encryption provides the vital function of built-in security on outgoing data traffic. Protecting Ethernet traffic from ever-growing network security threats requires that any data leaving the data center must be encrypted. MACsec encrypts Ethernet traffic at the frame level and was designed to provide standards-based end-to-end WAN security.

When combined with the family’s timestamping capabilities, FlexE and MACsec are a powerful combination. As described by Babak Samimi, vice president for Microchip’s Communications business unit.  “By delivering the highest-density Ethernet ports coupled with MACsec, FlexE and the nanosecond packet timing performance needed for 5G, we’ve introduced an innovative Ethernet connectivity platform for telecom and cloud service provider routers and switches, as well as optical transport equipment.”

The META-DX1 family includes three members:

  • The PM6110 includes MACsec, FlexE and an Interlaken Interface
  • The PM6108 includes MACSEC and the Interlaken Interface
  • The PM6104 is offered without the MACsec, FlexE or the Interlaken Interface

Check out the video below for more info:

Around the Industry

Unsurprisingly, there are other players in this space. A couple of them can be found below:

  • Broadcom offers a broad range of PAM-4 PHY devices supporting 50G, 100G, 200G and 400G data rates. 
  • Rambus believes that 112 Gpbs will be the next milestone, and 112 Gpbs will be a key building block. To that effect, they offer the 112G Long Reach (LR) SerDes PHY.



Tell us about how you use Ethernet in your designs in the comments below.