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MWC 2012: Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics

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Core information:

Follow-upCore post: China’s HW engineering lead: The Rockchip RK292 series (RK2928 and RK2926) example [Oct 27, 2012]

Exclusive : ST Ericsson, Rockchip To Join Windows 8 For ARM Club In 2013 [Feb 29, 2012]

Rockchip RK30xx ARM Cortex-A9 announced at Mobile World Congress 2012 [Charbax, Feb 29, 2012]

Rockchip [a fabless SoC company with 400+ employees now] and ARM have announced the new [40nm LP] Rockchip RK30 series at Mobile World Congress. Expect full mass production to happen around May 2012, with samples being shipped around right now. Check back on my blog in the coming weeks and months for many affordable tablets, smartphones and Set-top-boxes featuring this new up to 1.4Ghz Dual-core 40nm Rockchip processor. The SoC price is just $15 for this dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 system!

Rockchip Licenses a Wide Range of ARM IP for Turnkey Solution Targeting Mass Market, Cost-Effective Android Tablets [Rockchip press release, Feb 27, 2012]

Rockchip, a leading Chinese fabless semiconductor company and mobile Internet System-on-Chip (SoC) solution provider, today announced its next generation RK30xx platform, targeting the mass market, cost-effective Android tablets. The new platform is based on wide range of ARM® Intellectual Property (IP) that Rockchip has licensed, including dual-core ARM Cortex™-A9 MPCore™ processors, ARM quad-core Mali™-400 MP Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and an ARM Artisan® Physical IP Process Optimization Pack (POP) for the Cortex-A9 processor. The RK30xx platform is a turnkey solution that reduces design complexity and enables faster time-to-market for Android tablet manufacturers, enabling them to address fast changing consumer demands.

The combination of Rockchip’s market-leading design experience for mobile Internet devices and high-performance, energy-efficient processor and GPU technologies from ARM has resulted in a platform that delivers captivating 3D gaming experiences and fluent HD video playback, as well featuring a rich set of memory interfaces and peripherals.

“The tablet market is growing rapidly, and putting greater demands on semiconductor companies to deliver cost-effective solutions that can sustain an ever-increasing level of graphics, video and gaming performance, while still being energy-efficient,” said Mr. Feng Chen, Chief Marketing Officer, Rockchip. “The partnership enables us to use proven mobile Internet technologies from ARM and provide a high-performance, low-cost and easy-to-design platform. This turnkey solution is ideal for customers to quickly adopt for their Android-based tablet devices. The combination of the ARM Cortex-A9 processor and the POP has enabled the highest performance with the lowest power in the fastest time possible. Rockchip has been able to deliver a highly efficient processor implementation on a 40nm LP process.”

“ARM is committed to providing advanced processor, GPU and physical IP technologies to our Partners. This enables them to innovate for complex, smart system applications, such as mobile Internet,” said Mike Inglis, executive vice president and general manager, processor division, ARM. “We are pleased that Rockchip, whose solutions are already being used in many mobile Internet products, has chosen a range of ARM IP for their innovative, next generation RK30xx platform. We look forward to their continued success in the Android tablet market.”

The Rockchip RK30xx platform features:

Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with up to 1.4GHz speed, implemented with Artisan Processor Optimization Pack (POP)
• Quad-core ARM Mali-400 MP GPU, supporting OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0 and OpenVG 1.1
• Full memory support, including DDRIII, DDRII, and LPDDRII
• High performance dedicated 2D processor
• 1080P multi-format video decoder
• 1080P video encoding for H.264 and vp8
• Stereoscopic 3D H.264 MVC video codec
• Embedded HDMI 1.4a, supporting 3D display
• Embedded 60bit/s ECC, supporting MLC NAND, E-MMC, i-NAND and booting
• Support of dual panel display and dual camera

Availability

Samples of the Rockchip RK30xx platform will be available in March 2012.

Rockchip Tablets – ARM at CES 2012 [ARMflix, Jan 12, 2012]

Rockchip their new ARM Powered tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012, including a tablet that streams live TV, Android-based tablets, 4G LTE tablets, dual-input tablets, E-Home 4G connected solutions, and multi-screen tablet-TV sharing.

Review On The Major Tablet Chips In Shenzhen Market [M.I.C. Digi, March 27, 2011]

Rockchip RK2818: Rockchip RK2818 is an ARM9-based core. It is made by the 65nm process [Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing – now part of Global Foundries] and has a frequency of 624MHz, beginning to support DDR2 memory. So the performance of RK2818 is fair. The drawback is that the 3D display is realized by the CPU instead of an seperate graphics core, so it can only support the 720P video when doing its upmost. Tablets with RK2818 came into season around last October. The current price of RK2818 tablets with the lowest configuration has dropped to 500 yuan.

Rockchip RK2918: RK2918 is the next-generation product of RK2818. Its clock can reach 1.2GHz. With the 55nm process [TSMC], Cortex-A8 core, and the separate graphics core [GC800 from Vivante with 60 million triangles/s], RK2918 is attractive. But there haven’t been RK2918 tablets large quantities on the market. …

Photo: people who know better?  On the MID Tablet market trends clash

Shenzhen Wabook shows $93 Rockchip RK2918 Laptop [Charbax, March 7, 2012]

The Wabook EPC1029 [shown on Cebit 2012 in Germany], with a 10.1″ 1024×600, runs on the Rockchip RK2918 ARM Cortex-A8, 3 USB Host ports, it can run Android 4.0, the price for bulk (1000+) orders is $93. I want to see how smooth Chrome for Android runs on this Laptop. Check back soon, I will try to get them to show the performance of Chrome for Android on ICS on this RK2918 laptop as soon as possible.

Fan of Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich? See What Rockchip is Serving up in Las Vegas [Rockchip press release, Jan 6, 2012]

Chinese Semiconductor Company will feature
4G Tablets with Adobe® Flash® 11 at 2012 CES

You recognize Android phones, tablets, TVs, and home phone systems, but do you recognize one of the worldwide leaders behind much of this technology?

Chinese-based Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co., Ltd, Asia’s leading developer of fabless semiconductors with an emphasis on Mobile Internet Platforms, will release the RK2918 chip for Google’s Android 4.0 Operating System – known as the Ice Cream Sandwichat the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, January 10-13.

Rockchip will feature phones and tablets utilizing their technology and Android 4.0 at their booth – including some that incorporate Adobe® Flash® 11, not currently standard with 4.0 technology.

With 80 percent market share penetration in China– a figure that would make them a virtual behemoth here in North America – Rockchip’s product can be found in dozens of famous name brand products including Samsung, Philips, Sony, Toshiba and Archos. And with consumer demand for the Ice Cream Sandwich poised to explode across all products and platforms on six continents, Europe and the Americas are `logical targets for the Chinese company.

“The global environment is right for our Android 4.0 product, and as a company, we are in precisely the right position to play a major role in satisfying a healthy portion of that demand,” said Chen Feng, Vice President of Rockchip. “We are looking at CES as an opportunity to introduce our latest technology to the trade, and the public, as we build towards more solidly establishing our name outside of the Chinese market.”

The world’s leading provider of microchips for the entire MP3/MP4 market, exclusive of Apple®, Rockchip will showcase at CES the largest selection of tablets that utilize their technology. “We think we will have between 30 and 40 tablets at Vegas,” said Feng. “We’ve adding new products every day, so even now, as we prepare to leave for CES, we’re not sure what that final number will be!”

Not yet familiar with Rockchip here in North America?

That’s not altogether surprising; but as this rapidly growing company continues to make its mark on a burgeoning industry, you can rest assured of one thing …

You will be soon!

First ICS Tablet in Hand! Android 4.0 Tablet Powered by RK2918 Goes on Sale! [Rockchip press release, Jan 11, 2012]

This week, the first Android 4.0 tablet in the world will go on sale, which is powered by Rockchip RK2918 chipsand manufactured by numbers of brand companies in China. For those who have got an Android 2.3 tablet in hand, the device can get a free to the newly released version at the same time. Let’s get a big bite on the Ice Cream Sandwich!

This is really a big hit after we’ve seen videos showing ICS demos on tablets with RK2918 last week, on reports from several big tech websites.

Tablets like Newsmy K97, Window N90, Cube U9GT2 and Telecast T76 are on the list of first , and the ICS pre-installed products are available on local brand stores and online shops. U.S. and European markets also get access to RK2918 tablets manufactured by overseas ODMs.

“The OS will be continuously optimized for better compatibility and performance,” Rockchip announced, “to achieve the best experience on ICS”. And later we will see more brand companies updating their tablets with RK2918 solution.

The specific date of ICS release will be announced according to different brands, please pay attention to our latest report.

Newsmy K97

Download: http://www.newsmy.com/Page/Download_1.html;

http://220.168.57.227:1949/cunchu/20111216K97android4.0tiyanban.rar

Online Shop: http://www.newsmyshop.com/

Window N90

Download:

Online Shop:

Cube U9GT2

Download: http://www.51cube.com/tools.asp

Product Introduction: http://www.51cube.com/pro_x.asp?id=651

Online Shop: http://detail.tmall.com/item.htm?id=13263860363&prt=1322548696739&prc=2

Fuzhou Rockchip grabs 70% market share of China’s tablet PC chips [What’s On Xiamen, Dec 6, 2010]

… “Almost all the big venture capital companies in China have indicated an interest in investing in us,” said Chen Feng, chief marketing officer of Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co Ltd, a Chinese tablet PC chip producer. Its chips have a market share of about 70 percent in China.

The company has produced 5 million chips for tablet PCs since April. “The market is heating up and next year investments in tablet PCs will become red hot,” said Chen. He said Rockchip will accept venture capital when they find the right partner. …

ARM at CES2011 with Rockchip [ARMflix, Jan 6, 2011]

ARM talks to Rockchip about their newest ARM-based chips at this year’s CES show.

Rockchip Releases its NEW Mobile Internet Platform – RK29xx World’s 1st SOC for 1080P VP8+android 2.3+Internet TV+1080P+3D GPU [Rockchip press release, Jan 7, 2011]

Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co., Ltd, a leading developer of fabless semiconductors, today released its new RK29xx generation Mobile Internet Platform.

RK2918 is a high-performance, low-power processor designed for mobile internet applications. The CPU subsystem is an ARM® Cortex-A8 CPU and includes the NEON SIMD engine to improve software media processing capability. With the TSMC advanced process, the A8 core can enable up to 1.2GHz.

RK2918 is the world’s first SOC to support decoding of the Full HD (1080P) VP8 video codec entirely in hardware. It also provides FULL HD decoder and encoder processor, hardware accelerated Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1, ultra powerful 3D/2D GPU, high speed internet surfing experience and more.

RK2918 now supports Gingerbread (Android 2.3) for Mobile Internet Devices, Smartphone and Internet TV, etc. Highlights of the RK29XX include:

  • 1.2G ARM Cortex A8 core with Neon and 512KB L2 cache
  • High performance 2D and 3D processors support OPENGL ES 2.0 and OPEN VG, Support 60M tri/s max
  • 1080P video decoding for H.264, VP8, RV, WMV, AVS, H.263, MPEG4 etc.
  • 1080P video encoding for H.264
  • Support DDRIII, DDRII, Mobile DDR memory
  • 24bit HW ECC for MLC NAND, support e-MMC boot
  • Three USB ports for Device, Host, 3G module
  • Two SD ports for SD card and WIFI
  • Sensors interface for front and rear camera, up to 5M
  • Standard TFT/EPD controller for variable panels
  • MAX 8 channel I2S  and SPDIF output for HD movie
  • TS port for mobile and terrestrial TV, ATSC-T/MH…
  • Ethernet networking interfaces
  • Support VoIP
  • Support Android 2.3 and future version

Rockchip will highlight MID and Internet TV powered by RK29xx at CES, and Rockchip’s  Internet TV solution with new technique and applications based on Android OS.

Rockchip and WebM release RK29XX–World’s first SOC to support WebM HD Video Playback in Hardware [Rockchip press release, Jan 7, 2010]

Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co., Ltd, a leading developer offabless semiconductors, today released its new RK29XX generation mobile Internet platform.

Rockchip 55-nm RK29XX solution is a high-performance, low-power processor designed for mobile internet applications. It integrates an ARM® Cortex-A8 CPU includes the NEON SIMD engine to improve software media processing capability. With TSMC advanced process, the A8 core can enable up to 1.2GHz. RK29XX also provides FULL HD decoder and encoder processor, hardware accelerated Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1, ultra powerful 3D/2D GPU, high speed internet surfing experience and more, now RK29XX supports Gingerbread (Android 2.3).

The RK29XX is the world’s first system-on-a-chip (SOC) to support 1080P HD decoding of the VP8 video codec entirely in hardware. VP8 is the codec used in the open WebM video format. To build VP8 decoding the RK29xx graphics accelerators, Rockchip licensed the WebM project’s G-Series 1 video decoder IP design.

“Cooperating with WebM has brought the benefit of Rockchip’s years of experience in the audio and video fields,” said Chen Feng, Vice Present of Rockchip. “The successful support of VP8 marks China’s semiconductor industry becoming international and Rockchip is devoted to continued support.”

“We’re very excited that Rockchip chose our G-Series 1 hardware design to add VP8 support to the RK29XX,” said Jani Huoponen, Hardware Product Manager for the WebM project. “Playback of HD content in hardware is very important to the WebM project and we look forward to seeing deployment of devices powered by the RK29xx.”

About WebM

The WebM project is dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the web that is freely available to everyone.To learn more, visit www.webmproject.org

Industry background

A New Threat to Korean Semiconductor Companies? [Korea IT Times, March 8, 2012]

China’s semiconductor design technology has greatly advanced. Now, Chinese semiconductor design companies are threatening Korean competitors. Some Korean companies expect to have tough competition with Chinese competitors in the near future.

According to industrial sources, Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE are hiring thousands of excellent semiconductor designers. Huawei unveiled a smartphone whose quad core application processor was featured at the MWC 2012. Surprisingly, Huawei did not use Nvidia and Qualcomm products. The quad-core AP K3V2 CUP for this smartphone was jointly developed by Huawei and its subsidiary, HiSilicon.  The chip will go on sale in March. HiSilicon also announced the world’s first multi-mode baseband chips that supports LTE-FDD, TD-LTE and 3GPP Release 9.

The design capabilities of Chinese companies are growing fast thanks to excellent human resources who returned to China from the Silicon Valley. It has also received the support of the Chinese government and conglomerate Chinese set companies. Moreover, China’s independent standards such as TD-LTE, CMMB have become the foundation for reinforcing the technological power of Chinese companies. Some say that the design capabilities of Chinese companies are stronger than those of Korean firms. ZTE, the world’s fourth largest cell phone maker, produces its own special chips; some of which are exported to Korea. The company developed and used TD-LTE baseband chipsets or chipsets for telecommunication equipment in its products. They even design and use analog semiconductors.

The growth of these companies is noteworthy. It is expected that these corporations will post one trillion won [US$ 3.56 billion] in sales this year. China has about 500 fables companies. HIS iSuppli expects that total sales of Chinese companies will be doubled to USD 10.7 billion in 2015 from USD 5.2 billion in 2010.  HiSilicon, the biggest fables company in China has been said to post about USD850 million in sales last year. This year, the company is expected to post USD1 billion in sales. Huawei is its biggest customer.

Spreadtrum, specializing in basebands and RF chips, saw its 2011 sales jump 94.7% to USD 674 million. This is due to the expansion of the 3G chipset sector by a whopping 336.8%. Spreadtrum modem chips are used in the Galaxy S2 or Galaxy Note exported to China. At this current pace, its sales are expected to surpass one trillion won within one to two years.

In the AP sector, Rockchip and Ingenichave remarkably grown. Rockchip recently released a 1.4㎓ AP which used an ARM Cortex-A9 dual core CPU. The AP is competitive in terms of price and performance.

Innopfidei is performing well in the digital audio broadcasting chip sector. RDA Micro Electronics specializes in RFs and mixed signal semiconductors and is also growing rapidly. In 2011, this company posted USD 289 million, an increase of 51% from 2010.

“The history of China’s semiconductor industry is short, up to 15 years,” said a semiconductor industry expert. “Those who returned from the Silicon Valley are taking the lead in the development of the Chinese semiconductor industry.  Soon Chinese fable companies will post one trillion won in sales.”

Manufacturing background

Rockchip Collaborates with Synopsys and Chartered to Achieve First-Pass Silicon Success [Chartered press release, Aug 3, 2009]

Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Company, Ltd., Synopsys, Inc. and Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing Ltd. today announced that Rockchip has achieved first-time silicon success on its next-generation multimedia system-on-a-chip (SoC), using a combination of Synopsys’ tools, intellectual property (IP) and services with Chartered’s 65-nanometer (nm) manufacturing technology. The RK 28 multimedia SoC, Rockchip’s first mass-production 65nm chip designed in China and targeted primarily for the China market, is an application processor for mobile handheld devices. The RK28 chip was designed with Synopsys’ full RTL-to-GDSII flow using best-in-class technology from the Galaxy™ Implementation and Discovery™ Verification Platforms, as well as DesignWare® IP, and implemented in Chartered’s advanced low-power (65nm LP) process.

“The mobile applications served by our customers require chips that can meet stringent low-power specifications without compromising performance, and our multimedia RK28 SoC delivers on both fronts,” said Feng Chen, chief marketing officer of Rockchip. “Our EDA and manufacturing partners played key roles in the success of our program. Our ability to reach design closure within our market window then rapidly move from tapeout to production silicon validates the choices we made with Synopsys and Chartered.”

Since the 65nm RK28 represented Rockchip’s first design at a new technology node, production-proven technology and knowledge sharing among the parties were essential to project success. The design took advantage of Synopsys’ IC Compiler with Zroute technology to exceed its 500MHz performance target, while employing advanced low-power design techniques such as multi-voltage and power gating to reduce power consumption. The production-proven VMM verification methodology and VCSTM functional verification solution were used to verify Rockchip’s design. The RK28 chip also integrates silicon-proven Synopsys DesignWare IP, including USB 2.0 PHY, USB HS OTG Controller and SD/MMC Host Controller. Design consultants from Synopsys Professional Services worked closely with Rockchip’s engineers throughout the project, merging critical skills and expertise to mitigate project risks and address schedule pressures. The implementation of the design in Chartered’s 65nm LP process enabled the chip to achieve target power, performance and area goals with first silicon, and quickly ramp to production volume.

“At Chartered, we understand our customers need technology and solutions with low risk and high yield to speed time to market, and we are pleased to see our collaboration with Rockchip and Synopsys achieve first-pass silicon success,” said Dr. Liang-Choo “LC” Hsia, senior vice president of technology development at Chartered. “The Rockchip-Synopsys-Chartered collaboration demonstrates how a strong foundation can support companies on the leading edge of design, especially those in the consumer entertainment and mobile applications.”

“Rockchip joins a growing list of innovative chip developers that are taking advantage of Synopsys’ broad portfolio of tools, IP and services to accomplish their aggressive design goals with efficiency,” said John Chilton, senior vice president of marketing and strategic development at Synopsys. “Our collaboration with Rockchip and Chartered demonstrates our commitment to serve customers in China and the rest of the world with solutions that accelerate tapeout and enhance manufacturability.”

SMIC lands new order for 65nm process foundry services [DIGITIMES, Nov 30, 2010]

Foundry chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) has said it recently grabbed orders for 65nm chips from China-based consumer IC design house Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics. The new orders are expected to help boost further its sales generated from the process.

Fuzhou’s design of a high-end digital-analog mixed SoC chip has successfully entered into commercial production at SMIC using the foundry’s 65nm LP process. Dubbed RK Cayman, the series is targeted for use in digital media players, e-book readers, and other digital consumer products.

SMIC revealed that 65nm accounted for 7.1% of its total wafer revenues in the third quarter pf 2010, up from 3.7% in the second quarter. Demand for the node has been rising at a fast pace, the company added.

In addition, SMIC said sales generated from its 45nm node are expected to become solid starting from the second half of 2011.

Rockchip and SMIC in commercial production of 65-nm multimedia chips [SMIC press release, Nov 29, 2011]

Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Rockchip”), a leading Fabless Semiconductor company and mobile-internet SOC solution provider, today announced that its design of a high-end digital-analog mixed SOC chip has successfully entered into commercial production at Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (“SMIC”, NYSE: SMI and SEHK: 0981.HK) using SMIC’s 65-nm Low-Power process.

The Rockchip RK Cayman series solution platform [?RK28xx?], based on ARM9 and DSP dual-core processors, adopts a number of SMIC’s self-developed 65-nm IPs and is a highly-integrated, programmable, and high-performance digital-analog mixed SOC chip. The chip supports 24bit/1K ECC (error checking and correcting), NAND, eMMC, and SPI (Single Program Initiation). With the built-in EPD (Electrophoretic Displays) driver, the chip can support a variety of EPD displays and various formats of 720P video playback. The chip also adopts Synopsys’ USB PHY, PHY I/O and USB 2.0 IP and features an OTG (On-The-Go) function that makes data exchange with other mobile devices quick and easy. The RK Cayman series is targeted for use in MP3, MP4, e-book reader, and other digital consumer product markets.

“Rockchip, with its strong R&D focus, continues to dedicate its in-house development to innovated products and solutions. The RK Cayman chip has a strong computing and video playback capability. The chip also supports CMMB, ISDB, mobile TV and other multimedia features. The camera interfaces also enable video and photo capabilities,” said Feng Cheng, Vice President of Rockchip. “SMIC’s 65-nm platform provides customers solutions with more reliability, stability, and lower costs, and thus significantly enhances our market competitiveness. The success of the RK Cayman chip marks a meaningful milestone for both parties.”

Chris Chi, Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer of SMIC, said: “The successful collaboration with Rockchip, the leading semiconductor and SOC chip provider in China, further consolidates SMIC’s leadership position in the relevant 65-nm multimedia market. SMIC will continue with the R&D of our 65-nm platform to better serve China’s rapidly growing consumer electronics market.”

SMIC moves 65-nm to volume production [EE Times Europe, Aug 4, 2010]

Chinese chip foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) has moved its low-leakage 65-nm process technology into volume production at its 300-mm facility in Beijing, the company said Tuesday (Aug. 3).

SMIC (Shanghai) has shipped more than 10,000 65-nm wafers since mass since the third quarter of 2009, the company said. SMIC, China’s largest wafer foundry, said it is also working on the transition to 55-nm technology.

“SMIC’s 65-nm can take designs at 65-nm and aim it toward the advantages of 55-nm, I’m delighted with the progress of SMIC’s 65/55-nm project team which continues to meet rigorous deadlines,” said Chris Chi, SMIC’s senior vice president and chief business officer.

SMIC CEO: China foundry vendor back on track [EE Times Europe, Oct 11, 2010]

… Wang acknowledged that SMIC is at least five years behind the competition at 65-nm and two-to-three years behind at 45-nm. The goal for the company is to narrow the gap between SMIC and its rivals. …

…  Recently, SMIC has moved its low-leakage 65-nm process technology into volume production at its 300-mm facility in Beijing. It is also working on the transition to 55-nm technology, which is due in pilot production by the third quarter of 2011.

SMIC is also working on a 55-nm general purpose process, which is due in pilot production in the fourth quarter of 2011.

SMIC is also working on a 45-/40-nm low leakage process, which is due in pilot production in the fourth quarter of 2011. SMIC is also working on a 45-/40-nm general purpose process, which is due in pilot production in the second quarter of 2012.

SMIC licensed the 45-nm process from IBM in 2007. SMIC is also devising a 32-nm process, which was also licensed from IBM.SMIC is also working on analog and mixed-signal. It is devising a bipolar-CMOS-DMOS (BCD) process. …

Emerging markets to drive China foundries’ growth: Q&A with Digitimes Research analyst Nobunaga Chai [DIGITIMES, Feb 24, 2011]

China’s foundries may not be able to compete head-to-head against the industry’s global top-three players in the most advanced process technologies, but their opportunities lie elsewhere – their own country and other emerging markets where demand for less sophisticated products will remain robust and drive their growth, according to Nobunaga Chai, author of the recently published Digitimes Research Special Report, “Greater China IC foundry industry overview.”

Q: Though SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) and GSMC (Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation) ranked fourth and tenth globally in 2010, China-based foundries seem to be less competitive in cost and are unable to meet demand for leading-edge applications. Is the situation changing, and what kind of competitiveness do China’s foundries have?

A:In order to improve their competitiveness, China’s foundry players are eager to migrate to next-generation process technologies. Although SMIC is still lagging one to two years behind TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) in process advancement, it already overcame the problem of low yield at 65nm node in the second quarter of 2010 and managed to raise 65nm node’s share of overall revenues to 7% in third-quarter 2010 from 2% in first-quarter 2010. GSMC also plans to volume produce at 90nm in 2011 to become the second China-based foundry to enter the nanometer club. GSMC, Hua Hong NEC and the Shanghai city government also have a plan to set up a joint venture, Shanghai Huali Microelectronics, which will build a 12-inch fab and directly enter 65nm production.

There is still a big gap between China-based foundries and their Taiwan competitors TSMC and UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation) in R&D for advanced processes, but China’s foundries are in a strong position to meet the robust demand from its home market, Hong Kong and other Asian emerging markets. Demand from the Asian emerging markets will be mainly for chips made using less advanced technologies, which is the strength of China’s foundries.

Q: Can you give us a picture of the Chinese foundries’ capacity expansion roadmap? How fast is their capacity growing?

A:SMIC has been actively ramping its 12-inch capacity, which reached a quarterly capacity of 152,000 8-inch equivalent units in third-quarter 2010 from 138,000 units a quarter earlier. As there is still plenty of room for expansion at SMIC’s 12-inch fabs in Beijing and Shanghai, it currently has no plans to build new 12-inch fabs. But Shanghai Huali will build a 12-inch fab in Shanghai with a monthly capacity of 35,000 wafers (79,000 8-inch equivalent wafers). Others, such as TSMC’s subsidiary and CSMC Technologies, will also expand their 8-inch fabs.

Q: With the industry dominated by such giants as TSMC, UMC and Globalfoundries, will China’s players seek to compete head-to-head against them, or look to other market segments to avoid a head-on clash? SMIC may be an exception, but how good is the chance that it will become a Top-3 player?

A:From the pace of shrinking geometry to the construction of new capacity, TSMC, UMC and Globalfoundries are taking a runaway lead in sub-65nm development against their Chinese competitors. These top players are also giving top priority to advanced nodes when expanding capacity. But that means that if demand continues expanding, low-end capacity for such products as PWMICs and LCD driver ICs – which only need 0.15 micron or more mature processes – will be insufficient. This is where the opportunities will be for China’s foundries that target the lower-end segments.

Up till the end of third-quarter 2010, SMIC had a total quarterly capacity of 489,000 8-inch equivalent wafers, just about half of Globalfoundries’ one million 8-inch equivalent units. Globalfoundries’ Fab 8 in New York is expected to ramp up its capacity to 60,000 12-inch wafers monthly in 2012, further widening the capacity gap between Globalfoundries and SMIC. Therefore, it is unlikely that SMIC will become a Top-3 player in the near future. But SMIC will see major momentum of growth from the strong demand from its major markets – China and other emerging markets.

Q: How fast will China’s foundry production value grow?

A: Demand from China, Hong Kong and Asia’s emerging markets will remain strong, with the communications and consumer electronics segments to see particularly strong growth. With China’s foundries ramping up their capacities, Digitimes Research predicts that China’s foundry sector will have a high single-digit CAGR from 2010-2013.

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4 Comments

  1. […] second-tier and white-boxed handset makers targeting the emerging markets[Feb 13 – Apr 17, 2012]- MWC 2012: Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics [March 13, 2012]- Core post: Boosting the MediaTek MT6575 success story with the MT6577 […]

  2. […] RK9218 SoC, as well as their current flagship RK3066, you can find plenty of information in MWC 2012: Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics [this same blog, March 13, […]

  3. […] products is shown in blue ink. A13 and A10 are from Allwinner Technology, while RK3066 is from Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics. Both are quite successful SoC companies founded in China. Information about these tablets will be […]

  4. […] products is shown in blue ink. A13 and A10 are from Allwinner Technology, while RK3066 is from Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics. Both are quite successful SoC companies founded in China. Information about these tablets will be […]

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