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Analysis: Is IBM turning over key IC tech to China?

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IBM China plan? CMOS? semiconductor? foundry?

IBM Corp. has struck its second major chip deal in China, leaving questions on if the company is handing over technology to that nation without thinking about the possible consequences.

China's CSMC Technologies Corp. has signed an agreement with IBM, under which Big Blue will license its 0.18?m RF CMOS semiconductor technology to the specialty foundry vendor.

This is the second foundry licensing deal for IBM in China. In 2007, Chinese foundry provider Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. licensed IBM's 45nm bulk CMOS technology.

Meanwhile, under the terms with CSMC, IBM will transfer a variety of 0.18?m RF CMOS technology features and process elements as well as grant patent cross-licensing to CSMC.

The licenses are granted for use in CSMC's 200mm wafer fab in Wuxi. The 200mm wafer fab commenced production in 2009, with a planned installed capacity of 60,000 wafers per month.

"The licensing of high-performance RF advanced process platform complements our existing power analog process technology offerings," said Elvis Deng, president of CSMC, in a statement.

"The main application for the licensed technology is RF devices for receiving and transmitting RF signal of mobile phones, wireless routers and other high volume applications," he added. "The licenses will allow CSMC to maintain a major factor in the mainland China and overseas RF ICs open foundry markets."

Founded in 1997, CSMC is a pure-play specialty analog foundry. It provides processes at production technology nodes ranging from 3?m to 0.35?m. In 2008, it became a subsidiary of China Resources (Holdings) Company Ltd.

CSMC has two fabs, plus a joint venture facility. Fab 1 contains a clean room of 6,400 square meters and operates at a production capacity of 60,000 6-inch wafers per month.

Fab 2 has started initial production and is targeted for phase one production capacities in early 2010. Fab 2 contains a clean room space of 18,322 square meters and its targeted "phase one" capacity is 30,000 8-inch wafers per month by the first half of 2010. It has a "phase two" target capacity of 60,000 8-inch wafers per month by 2012, with the process technologies migrated to 0.11?m.

In 2008, CR Semiconductor Wafers & Chips Ltd (CSWC) joined CSMC's management and became CSMC Fab 5. Fab 5 is using 0.6?m capability for analog and digital circuit fabrication. Fab 5 currently contains a clean room of 3,000 square meters with production capacity of 30,000 6-inch wafers per month. The second phase clean room will be 3,000 square meters and the target production capacity will be doubled.

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