STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM) announced a new secure microcontroller (MCU) based on embedded Flash memory, which is the first in the world to be produced using 90nm (90 nanometer) process technology. The ST21F384 – the first secure micro within ST’s established ST21 smartcard platform, optimized for 2.5G and 3G mobile communications – uses Flash memory in place of mask ROM for its program memory, to provide increased flexibility and shorter lead times for manufacturers, coupled with increased cost-efficiency from its 90nm production.
The new ST21F family will enable card manufacturers to react quickly and cost-effectively to the fast changing needs of the mobile market, customizing applications late in the production process, at the card personalization stage, and addressing the requirements of multiple mobile network operators (MNOs) with a single product. Supply chain risk and complexity can be reduced, as the silicon is not linked to a specific operator profile.
The ST21F384 is based on an enhanced 8/16-bit CPU core with 16-Mbyte linear addressing range, running typically at 21MHz. It embeds 7 Kbytes of user RAM, plus 384 Kbytes of Flash memory, organized as 128-byte pages, with an erase capability similar to that of the EEPROM used in earlier devices in the secure family. Current consumption complies with 2G and 3G specifications to meet the requirements of (U)SIM applications. The microcontroller includes a hardware DES (Data Encryption Standard) accelerator and a user-accessible CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Code) calculation block.
Card manufacturers using the Flash-based secure MCU will be able to reduce lead times throughout the production process, with less time required to validate the operating system (OS) on the card and to provide samples to operators. A reduced time-to-volume production will also be achieved due to the ability to stock unprogrammed devices. The cycle time to implement OS feature updates and new MNO requirements will also be dramatically shorter.
With application code stored in Flash memory, card manufacturers will no longer pay ROM mask costs; in addition, the code itself can be smaller, as it is only necessary to implement the features required for the final customer, rather than creating a general solution. ST’s on-chip Flash loader provides cost-efficient operating system loading.
“The move to 90nm technology for this new ST21 platform device is the breakthrough that adds real cost efficiency to the flexibility and other benefits of the Flash-based smartcard,” said Marie-France Florentin, ST’s Smartcard ICs Business director. “With ST’s world-class manufacturing capability, based on more than 20 years as a leader in secure MCUs, card manufacturers for the mobile industry will be able to reduce their costs while also minimizing time to market.”
Samples of the ST21F384 are available now, with volume production starting in December 2007. ST has the unique ability to offer smartcard ICs as sawn wafers or in advanced micro-modules combining integration and security. The ST21F384 is available as sawn or unsawn wafers, and in 6-contact (D17) and 8-contact (D95) RoHS-compliant modules, with contact assignment compatible with ISO 7816-2. In wafer form it is priced at $0.45 in quantities of 100,000 units.
STMicroelectronics is a global leader in developing and delivering semiconductor solutions across the spectrum of microelectronics applications. An unrivalled combination of silicon and system expertise, manufacturing strength, Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio and strategic partners positions the Company at the forefront of System-on-Chip (SoC) technology and its products play a key role in enabling today’s convergence markets. The Company’s shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, on Euronext Paris and on the Milan Stock Exchange. In 2006, the Company’s net revenues were $9.85 billion and net earnings were $782 million.