The government of India recently approved the setting up of two semiconductor wafer fabrication facilities in the country. It is expected to provide a major boost to the Indian electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) ecosystem. A look at the two proposals:
Jaiprakash Associates, along with IBM (USA) and Tower Jazz (Israel). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 26,300 crore for establishing the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I, 28nm node in phase II with the option of establishing a 22nm node in phase III. The proposed location is Greater Noida.
Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (HSMC) along with ST Microelectronics (France/Italy) and Silterra (Malaysia). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 25,250 crore for the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I and 45nm, 28nm and 22nm nodes in phase II. The proposed location is Prantij, near Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
Now, this is excellent news for everyone interested in the Indian semiconductor industry.
One look at the numbers above tell me – NONE OF THESE are going to be 450mm fabs! Indeed, both will be 300mm fabs! After waiting for such a long time to even get passed by the Union Cabinet, are these 300mm fabs going to be enough for India? Is the technology choice even right for the upcoming wafer fabs in India? Let’s examine!
As you can probably see, both the projects have placed 22nm right at the very last phase! That’s very interesting!
Intel just showcased its Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family a few days back. I distinctly remember Intel’s Narendra Bhandari showing off the 22nm wafer sometime last week during a product launch!
For discussion’s sake, let’s say, a fab in India comes up by say, early 2015. Let’s assume that Phase 1 takes a full year. Which means, Phase 2, where 22nm node would be used, shall only be touched in 2016 or even beyond! Isn’t it? Where will the rest of the global industry be by then?
You are probably aware of the Global 450 Consortium or G450C, which has Intel, IBM, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and TSMC among its members. What is the consortium currently doing? It is a 450mm wafer and equipment development program, which is leveraging on the industry and government investments to demonstrate 450mm process capabilities at the CNSE’s Albany Nanotech Complex. CNSE, also a consortium member, is the SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering!
So, what does all of this tell me?
One, these upcoming fabs in India will probably produce low- to mid-range chips, and some high-end ones at a later stage. Well, two, this does raise a question or two about India’s competitive advantage in the wafer fab space! Three, there is lot of material on 450mm fabs, and some of that is available right here, on this blog! Have the Indian semiconductor industry folks paid enough attention to all that? I really have no idea!
Four, only the newer 300mm fabs built with higher ceilings and stronger floors will be able to be upgraded to 450mm, as presented by The Information Network’s Dr. Robert Castellano at the Semicon West 2013. Five, what are the likely alternative markets for 200mm and 300mm fabs? These are said to be MEMs and TSV, LEDs and solar PV. Alright, stop!
Perhaps, these product lines will be good for India and serve well, for now, but not for long!
Interesting! I am a bit surprised to read the news item that India is planning to build its own commercial semiconductor fabs, worth Rs. 25,000 crores or $5 billion.
One of the lines in the release by the PIB, Government of India, states that the electronics hardware sector is capital intensive and facing several disabilities and barriers Therefore, the proposal will have significant impact in resolving these issues and help Indian electronics hardware industry to develop localized content/value addition.
Hasn’t this line been repeated time and again? And, what has been the result? Let’s hope that India does not forget the mistakes committed during the initial semicon policy or SIPS.
Coming back to the PIB release, it is stated that the Empowered Committee shall submit its recommendations to the Government by 31.7.2011. Why does the Committee need so much time? Hasn’t pages and pages been written about India’s semicon policy? I wonder whether folks have even looked into all of this properly!
Next, the timing itself! In a post last April, I had mentioned that the Indian semiconductor policy, which was announced back in 2007, had supposedly expired on March 31, 2010! What have the so-called industry caretakers been doing up until now? One does not plan to release a revised policy more than a year post its expiry! It should be immediate!!
It was also proposed to extend the deadline of India’s semicon policy up to March 2015! Whatever happened to that?
Where will the proposed semiconductor fab or fabs be set up? At FabCity in Hyderabad? I don’t think so!
One good thing to come out of all this — there is still some hope for having a fab in India. I am using the word ‘hope’ as there are many, including myself, who feel that all of this is perhaps, a wee bit late call!
As of now, India could possibly look globally for any fab or fabs to buy out! It simply does not have the time to build one! By the time this Committee comes out with its responses by end July 2011, it will be too late. Here’s why!
Let’s say that some folks could actually invest money to build a fab. This will be followed by trying to find a land, and then, possible investors. By the time all of this happens, it will be a good 12-18 months, or possibly, 2013. Next, what’s going to be the nature of the fab that India builds? Is it 200nm, or 300nm, or 28nm? How much would a state-of-the-art fab actually cost? Has any study been done of where the global industry would be by the time a semicon fab start in India?
These, and many more such questions need to answered.
I have known Dr Pradip Dutta, corporate VP of Synopsys Inc. and MD of Synopsys (India), as well as vice chairman, India Semiconductor Association (ISA), and now, chairman designate for 2011, ISA, for close to a decade now. We recently got into an interesting discussion on the Indian semiconductor industry.
Growth of semicon and electronics in India
First, I asked what should be done about the growth of semiconductors and electronics in the Indian eco-system?
Dr. Dutta said: “My view on this subject has been the same for many years now; high-tech electronics has to be a national mission. The defense and the government labs played a major role in promoting this sector in the US; e.g. Sandia National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA etc. DARPA, which is part of US Department of Defense has sponsored phenomenal amount of research in semiconductors and electronics.
“If we now look at countries closer to our part of the world, in Asia, we will see a similar focused effort from the governments. The STARC initiative in Japan, the National SOC program in Taiwan, the 839 program in Korea, the 863 program of Ministry of Science and Technology in China, all catered to a flourishing investment in R&D and innovation in high tech. Our country is poised for it too. We need to encourage start-ups in fabless design, explore manufacturing, foster innovation, create favorable policies for the industry and most certainly develop the talent pool.”
Need for domestic manufacturing
There is a need for domestic manufacturing in high tech electronics. Where are the Indian companies going? According to him, domestic manufacturing in high tech electronics has been flagged as a critical area in the ESDM (Electronic Design and Manufacturing) report that was submitted to the government by the industry in 2010. There is a need for initial funding, both in R&D as well as manufacturing. Duty structures need to be rationalized between import of CBU, SKD, CKD and components.
He added: “We have seen that manufacturing prospers in cluster environment and hence there is a recommendation to promote manufacturing clusters for specific product categories. However, it is safe to say that we have long ways to go in this area.”
Co-operation with international trade bodies
Now, what is the required policy framework and co-operation with international trade bodies? As per Dr. Dutta, the ISA has been active in forging close working relationships with multiple trade bodies from various parts of the world. “We have signed several MoUs with entities such as HTIA (Israel), ASTSA (Japan), DSP Valley (Belgium), TSIA (Taiwan), Semi (USA), GSA (USA) and UKTI (UK).
“Of course, we need to have a focus and these relationships should be driven by strategy. We have carried several delegations to these countries and hosted bi-lateral visits as well. These visits provide an opportunity for our member companies to have direct B2B opportunities.
“We learn valuable best practices from other entities and try and implement in our environment. For example, Israel does a great job in taking innovative ideas from entrepreneurs to incubation, many times inside of universities, and then spinning them into companies which later become part of the global value chain. In the process, this small country has created at least 150 NASDAQ listed high tech firms. Innovation to incubation to wealth creation – a formula that works very well there. We could certainly learn a lot from that model.”
Future of Indian semicon industry
So, how does Dr. Pradip Dutta see the Indian semicon industry, going forward? He said: “The Indian semiconductor industry is now poised at a very interesting juncture. While the MNCs are designing chips at the bleeding edge, we see a lot of high quality work being done by the design service companies and also local start-ups. Incidentally, the start-up scenario is quite active in the system space. This ties in with the ESDM focus of our industry. Read more…