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China IC design firms push 28nm tech

Posted: 09 Sep 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:28nm process? IC design? foundry? semiconductor industry?

EE Times-China, a joint venture subsidiary of eMedia Asia Ltd, has conducted a survey that revealed the preference for 28nm technology for the development of chips among leading IC design companies in mainland China. The "10th Annual IC Design House Survey" also found that 9.2 percent of local fabless businesses are mass producing digital ICs using advanced 45nm or below technologies.

"In the past decade, we have witnessed the emergence and rapid growth of mainland China's IC design industry. When we first started our survey in 2002, only 20 percent of local IC design firms used 0.25?m or below process technologies, while more than 72 percent of their counterparts in the U.S. used 0.18?m or below. Even five years ago, the industry was at least two generations behind the U.S. in terms of process technology," stated Brandon Smith, publisher of EE Times-China. "But this year's survey indicates that mainland China's leading chip design companies are investing in advanced technologies such as the 28nm designs in order to reduce time-to-market and compete globally."

The findings also showed that local IC design companies are increasingly using Taiwan foundries to support their high-voltage, high-reliability and high-integration designs. Of those who use these services, 63 percent work with foundries based in Taiwan, as compared with 57 percent in 2010. About 33.1 percent find Taiwan-based TSMC to be their most suitable foundry partner (30 percent in 2010), while 18.9 percent and 15 percent say mainland-based SMIC and CSMC, respectively are their best-suited foundries.

In a recent IHS iSuppli research, operations by fabless semiconductor companies in mainland China are forecasted to generate $10.7 billion in revenue in 2015, more than doubling from $5.2 billion in 2010, signifying the IC design industry's growth potential.

"The current global environment is very conducive to the rapid development of mainland China's semiconductor companies. The focus of the world's semiconductor industry is increasingly shifting toward mainland China, which accounts for one-third of the global market. The country's share of the world market is expected to further increase, and the government's support should help promote the industry's development," said Wayne Dai, CEO of VeriSilicon.

The survey also revealed that 57 percent of the country's ICs are used for CE products such as mobile phones and tablets. This market sector is characterized by rapid innovation and intense competition that continue to drive the fast development of the local IC design industry.

In the next few years, more major chip design companies are expected to develop ICs using advanced 40nm and 28nm process, although 65nm products are expected to be the mainstream in the digital IC segment, according to EE Times-China analysts.

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