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  Date: 17/02/2014

India semiconductor fab: LG, Samsung may be the next

Lately LG and Samsung showing some interest in building semiconductor IC fabs in India. LG and Samsung are leading makers of DRAM and flash memory semiconductor chips, which are going to be in huge demand in Indian electronics systems market as well as data-storage market. South Korea based LG and Samsung are leading sellers of mobile phones, consumer electronics, and consumer appliances in Indian market. These companies can strengthen their position in Indian market by investing in both design, manufacturing and sales. In automotive domain, South Korean major Hyundai is manufacturing its cars in India. Infrastructure for semiconductor fab in India is no more a big hurdle with availability of uninterrupted power and water. With the eco-system for electronics manufacturing building up faster, the Korean companies may be the losers, if they do not invest in chip fab facilities in India.

Recently union Cabinet has approved two semiconductor wafer fabs proposed separately by two consortium of companies. Cabinet had given in-principal approval for these chip fab proposals in the month of Sept 2013. The total investment from these two fabs is around Rs 51,000 Crores.

Read this below article I had earlier written on the market for India semiconductor fabs.

At the recently held India Electronics and Semiconductor Association event, DR. M J Zarabi, an India semiconductor fab expert, who is part of empowered committee for identifying technology and investors for setting up of Semiconductor Wafer Fabrication (Fab) Manufacturing Facilities in the country, was confident of some ground breaking of semiconductor fab construction happening with-in next 3-4 months. If that happened, we can see Made-in-India chips with in the end of 2016 or early 2017.

Semiconductor is a fast changing tech. If not the advancement of lithography, there are various other areas such as 450mm, 3D IC, III-IV compound semiconductor, and even disruptive nanotube and Graphene or something totally new moving into production stage from lab is always a high possibility. There is too much innovation happening in this. Semiconductor is the area which files maximum number of patents globally. Most of patents are owned by selected few multi-national companies.

If that is the technology changes happening, and if India semiconductor fab is supposed to make 90nm or 65 nm or even 45nm chips, how they are going to win in the market? This is the question raised by many. It is a valid question clearly calling for more R&D in academia related to nano technology and material science. However there are various areas India-semiconductor fab can serve with 300mm 65nm capability.

300 mm and >65nm chip fabs can be used to make microcontroller/MCU, FRAM/PRAM/MRAM or any such non-volatile memories, image sensors, interface ICs such as display drivers, lot of linear/analog ICs, and MEMS. There are many such medium-volume application specific ICs.

We can easily estimate India importing close to US$ 2 Billion worth of ICs in 2013 which are made in nodes such as 90nm and bigger. So these fabs immediately have a market of $1Billion each per year. That's not bad. And when there is wafer fab in India, the local manufacturing is only expected to not just grow, but even at a triple digit rate. There are examples of such growth in Asia when local fab started making chips. With Government's preferential market access policy, IC made by Indian semiconductor fabs are preferred over others. Itís a great beginning for this lucky two investors. Empowered Committee has given a chance to more semiconductor vendors to invest, they have not shown interest and they mostly have missed the bus.

To give you info on the fabs which are going to be set up in India, one is going to be established near Noida, U.P. is proposed by Jayprakash associates in partnership with IBM and TowerJazz. Technology nodes proposed by this group are 90, 65 and 45 nm nodes in Phase I, 28 nm node in Phase II with the option of establishing a 22 nm node in Phase III.

The other fab that is going to come up near Gandhinagar, Gujarath is proposed by Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation in partnership with ST Microelectronics and Silterra. Technology nodes proposed by this group are 90, 65 and 45 nm nodes in Phase I and 45, 28 and 22 nm nodes in Phase II.

If somebody wondering there is elections coming up and this projects may be scrapped, its not going to be so, because, in this nationally important project, there looks to be consensus among the major political parties.

However the other established chip makers may offer cheaper foundry services, filing patent violation cases, consuming Indian VLSI design talent, creating new environment regulations, creating new common standards, making some technologies obsolete, bringing out some hidden technologies (which might be now operating in stealth mode), giving turnkey design support to product OEMs, and leveraging any such India's semiconductor fabs weak points. The two years time from the breaking-ground to chips making, gives these two players time to start working on designing of products and strategies to manage the competition with lesser difficulty. Partnership with eco-players and prospects is essential. They can do lot of parallel work while facility is under construction.

There are very less chances for these fabs to fail, but sustaining them for long time becomes challenge if enough in-house R&D is not done.

EE Herald
Author: Srinivasa Reddy N
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