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Samsung to construct logic fab in system LSI push

Posted: 25 Oct 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:system-LSI? flash-logic process? wlan? Bluetooth? pda?

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd expects to invest $3.6 billion in its system-LSI business by 2007, including a dedicated 300mm logic fabrication facility at Onyang, South Korea, 30 miles south of the company's Kihung fab complex.

The fab at Onyang is expected to be equipped by the end of next year or earlier, depending on market conditions, said Dennis Kim, VP of the System LSI division at Samsung Semiconductor Inc. Supporting 90nm design rules and a merged flash-logic process, the structure will mark "the first time the System LSI group is building its own fab. Usually we inherit fabs from the older memory fabs," Kim said.

Samsung has picked its targets, Kim said, with an emphasis on WLAN and Bluetooth products for PDAs and cellular phones, bringing Web browsing and e-mail functions to its mobile-product lineup.

In mobile networking, Samsung plans to release an MPEG-4 coprocessor, a GPS wireless-modem IC and a Bluetooth RF chip over the next six months or so. In home networking, Samsung has a set-top-box channel decoder and a wireless-networking baseband-plus-RF device in the wings.

For GbE, the company plans to put two dice in one package, then combine the PHY and MAC functions into a single chip, said Kim.

In the consumer electronics space, Samsung plans to integrate the CD-RW and DVD playback functions into a combo chip and "take market leadership in the DVD area by means of our partnership with Oak Technology and another partner firm that we cannot identify now," Kim said. A combination CD-DVD chip is being targeted at the China market.

Kim said Samsung believes entertainment gateways will emerge as a major market in 2004, with optical disks, digital televisions, and home networking coming into their own. In the mobile space, PDAs with integrated cameras and wireless-communications functions will be another big seller, he said.

Hyung-Kyu Lim, president of the system-LSI business at parent Samsung Electronics, said that Samsung expects his division's sales to increase to $7 billion by 2007. Samsung had non-memory sales of $1.8 billion in 2000 and $1.4 billion in 2001, and Kim said it expects $1.75 billion in revenues this year.

"We now believe that system LSIs will take a leadership role in the growth of the company," he said. When asked about the future of DRAMs, Kim responded that DRAMs are "a mature part of the industry."

Past promises

Samsung has made big promises in the past for its system-LSI business, usually when DRAMs were in the tank, only to divert resources back to memories during cyclical upturns. Also, the logic business requires design and marketing skills that differ from those of the commodity memory business.

"We believe we are making a steady effort," said Kim, noting that 6,000 people are employed in Samsung's worldwide system-LSI business, including 2,200 R&D engineers. "We have enough technical strength to succeed, and we are recruiting many talented engineers to our division."

Indeed, Samsung's profitability, and the substantial end-of-year bonuses it pays its engineers, are proving attractive to many Korean engineers living in the U.S., said an engineering manager at a competing U.S. semiconductor company.

On Oct. 18, Samsung Electronics reported a net profit of $1.4 billion for Q3 alone, roughly split between semiconductors and the telecommunications group.

Samsung's success in DRAMs, then flat-panel displays and now wireless handsets gives credibility to the system-LSI push. By leveraging 90nm and 130nm design rules on 300mm wafers, Kim said, "We believe we can drive out costs by creating best-of-class products that ramp into very high volumes."

- David Lammers

EE Times

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