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Archive for June, 2011

What’s this EoI got to do with semiconductor fabs in India?


Last week, I was alerted to a news on a local daily, which simply read: Government invites EoI for semiconductor fabs! With all due respect, what is the need for an Expression of Interest (EoI) in the first place? At least, I fail to understand!!

Having spent most of my life in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, I’ve seen plenty of fabs come up in the past decade, and before. Why? In the 1990s, no one used to even give a second look at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which [I don’t know if many are aware] started operations in 1987.

Back in the mid- to late-1990s, I had the pleasure of attending several trade shows at the Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC), Taiwan. In fact, I tracked the rise of the Taiwanese and Chinese companies in telecoms and semiconductors. Back then, no one even noticed TSMC, as well as the Chinese backed Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC). However, the art of manufacturing, which had found its bearings in Taiwan, were steadily shifting to China. I even remember visiting Huawei in the middle of 2000, and later ZTE.

By 2000, many of the Taiwanese firms had moved their operations to China for managing cheaper labor costs. Today, China has assumed gigantic proportions, hasn’t it? Today, even TSMC is in the list of top 10 global semiconductor companies. I had even written a post congratulating TSMC for making it to the top 10 R&D spenders during 2010.

What exactly does this EoI from the government of India set out to achieve? Well, for starters, the EoI should come from the technology companies on whether they are interested to start a fab in India. By the way, do you know what happened to the SIPS or the Indian semiconductor policy announced in 2007? It sank without a trace! A Karnataka Semicon Policy was unveiled with great fanfare last year. The result? No takers!! Read more…

Devices needing semicon on rise: Dr. Chi-foon Chan, Synopsys


Dr. Chi-Foon Chan, Synopsys.

Dr. Chi-Foon Chan, Synopsys.

According to Dr. Chi-Foon Chan, president and COO, Synopsys Inc., there are five reasons for the global semiconductor industry to be optimistic. These are:

* Devices that need semiconductors are on a rise. Eg: telecom — Apple iPad, tablet PC, etc. Everything requires semiconductors.
*  Digital media, growing downloads.
* Microprocessors.
*  Data storage.
* Networks.

Dr. Chan was delivering the keynote at last week’s Synopsys User Group (SNUG) India conference.

Key design challenges today include developing high performance chips with low power, design complexity, and shrinking design cycle. Some other challenges are:
*  SoC.
*  Exploding cost of verification.
* Smart and fast verification.
*  Challenges in advanced verification.
* IP and its re-use — power/performance, complexity, schedule.
*  Growth in IP business leading to high-quality IP.
*  Toward physics – TCAD.
*  Yield loss is a digital issue and is big money.

Will you remain mobile (on phone) all the time?

June 25, 2011 Comments off

Perhaps, most of you will! I won’t!! And I stand by it!

This evening, by chance, I had a very interesting conversation. It centred round the mobile phone. Especially, the features. Well, at the end of the conversation, it led to me remarking the statement that forms the caption of this story.

First, let me make it clear that I started off my career in telecoms, at the time when there was neither any Internet nor mobile phones. My first look at a mobile phone was way back in 1992, the same year I first saw the Internet — in its early avataar!

However, nothing, till today, has made me give up my liking for acquaintances and good conversation. If I am correct, the way mobile phones are now targeted and advertised, it seems you should remain mobile all the time! And now, with the social networks booming, the mobile phones have become a great way to stay connected via such networks.

I don’t really know about you and the young generation of  today, but I am sure — I can live without being bothered (or bombarded) with phone calls and messages of all kinds. Nor do I really think that highly of social networks. Trust me: I started Twitter only middle of last year — after already winning two world titles. Even Facebook, I joined only at a friend’s insistence. Till today, I only use that to wish friends on their birthdays.

So, let’s get back to mobile phones. Will you remain mobile all the time? To do what? Work? Play? Chat? What’s being forgotten here is: all of these activities are done on your mobile phone — which is meant for you to communicate.

Sometimes, I am puzzled, when folks show me their latest phones that have over 100 applications. When I ask how many they use, their answer (combined) veers toward some five or six good ones. And also, those applications are in permanent use — like some mail or chat function, or some social network. Has anyone even given a thought to any other areas besides these?

I have even seen some executives carry presentations on their mobiles. Please carry on doing so — it’s worth the task.

Wavion offers gamer changer in Wi-Fi offloading

June 18, 2011 Comments off

Wavion has introduced the WBSn family — said to be supporting the industry’s first two-way beamforming with 802.11n. A Gigabit outdoor Wi-Fi system, it offers carrier grade end-to-end solution. Other features include leading interference immunity suite and seamless mobile data offload.

Tal Mierzon, Wavion’s CEO, said the company is uniquely positioned as carrier grade Wi-Fi solution, and Wavion’s solution revolutionizes the unlicensed wireless broadband access (WBA) market. The solution features two-way beamforming 802.11n technology. It is said to feature the widest and homogeneous coverage, has highest capacity, and provides leading interference immunity. It also features NLOS performance and indoor penetration.

Wavion promises 50 percent CAPEX and 50 percent OPEX savings. The solution has seen rapid sales growth with numerous large scale deployments in more than 70 countries. It offers end-to-end carrier grade wireless networks for a variety of applications, based on its omni-direction and sector base stations.

An estimate of the global wireless broadband market reveals that smartphones and tablets are driving exploding data and video traffic. There is an increasing operators’ usage of Wi-Fi for data offloading and backhauling, in order to reduce cost, improve QoS, and enable service expansion.

Next, there is a $1 billion and growing total addressable outdoor Wi-Fi equipment market. The technology choice (Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, Femto) driven by capacity, availability and cost. Also, the “White Space” initiative and unlicensed spectrum favors Wi-Fi. Further, Wi-Fi and LTE are turning out to be complementary solutions for carriers. Read more…

Mobile as the nexus: Warren East, ARM

June 14, 2011 Comments off

Warren East, CEO, ARM.

Warren East, CEO, ARM.

ARM’s CEO, Warren East, presented this evening at an ISA invited conference on Mobile As The Nexus!

East said the industry is in a transformational mode. Mobile devices are now connecting ubiquitous environments, cloud computing, services and storage. We have the opportunity to reshape the value chain and create growth. Rapid pace of product revolution demands choice and re-use. Low power, low cost and differentiation drives innovation across markets. Scalable solutions enable smarter systems for expanding opportunities. East added that a flexible, diverse ARM ecosystem is evolving to enable new paradigms across new markets.

Focusing on the 2020 opportunity with ARM, he noted that ARM is growing into new markets and product categories. Today’s processors are driving shipments beyond 2015. All of this presents a tremendous opportunity for those who want to work with ARM.

Earlier, he said that currently, over 4 billion people were globally connected by ARM-powered mobile phones. Smartphones will leapfrog PCs in the developed world. Over 1.8 billion ARM processor cores were shipped in Q1-2011. Over 25 billion ARM based chips have been shipped so far. The table applications revenue is likely to top $15 billion by 2015.

There are over 850 ARM Connected Community partners, The ARM  Cortex family has now been licensed 186 times. ARM currently has 10 percent of the mobile computing market.

However, East cautioned that there is still some way to go! Around 5.1 billion people don’t have the Internet, 2.2 billion folks don’t have mobile phones and 1.4 billion of the global population don’t have electricity. Read more…

“Look ahead” to May 2011’s predicted yearly global semicon sales: Cowan LRA model


This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

May 2011’s “actual” global semiconductor sales is scheduled to be released by the WSTS, via its monthly HBR (Historical Billings Report), on or about Tuesday, July 5th.

In anticipatation of the upcoming May sales release by the WSTS, Cowan demonstrated an analysis capability of the Cowan LRA Model for forecasting worldwide semicon sales; namely, the ability to provide a “look ahead” scenario analysis for 2011’s global semicon sales forecast range as a function of next month’s (in this case May’s) “actual” global semiconductor sales estimate.

The detailed results of the “look ahead” analysis are summarized in the scenario analysis matrix provided in the table below. These results are also discussed in the subsequent paragraphs:

2011 May global semicon sales and sales growth scenario matrix: Cowan LRA model.

2011 May global semicon sales and sales growth scenario matrix: Cowan LRA model.

In order to demonstrate this “look ahead” forecast capability, an extended range in possible May 2011’s “actual” sales is selected a-priori; in this particular scenario analysis, a May 2011 sales range (from $23.065 billion to $26.065 billion, in increments of $0.25 billion, was chosen) as listed in the first column of the above table.

This estimated range in possible “actual” May sales numbers is “centered around” the projected May sales forecast estimate of $24.565 billion as gleamed from last month’s Cowan LRA Model run (based upon April’s published “actual” sales numbers). The corresponding May 3MMA sales forecast estimate is projected to be $25.474 billion (NOTE – assumes no, or minor. revisions in either March’s or April’s previously published “actual” sales numbers released last month by the WSTS) .

The overall year 2011 sales forecast estimate for each of the assumed May sales over the pre-selected range of ‘actual’ sales estimates is calculated by the model, and is shown in the second column of the table. The third column reveals the associated year-on-year sales growth estimates compared to year 2010’s actual sales result of $298.315 billion.

The fourth and fifth columns show the corresponding May 3MMA, three Month Moving Average, sales estimates and the corresponding yr-o-yr sales growths relative to May 2010’s 3MMA sales of $24.701 billion, respectively. Finally, the sixth column lists the model’s Momentum Indicator, MI, defined as the percentage delta between the actual May sales result and the previous month’s sales projection for May. Read more…

Chinese fabless market set to double! And India’s?

June 10, 2011 Comments off

I received a report from IHS iSuppli, which stated that China’s fabless market is likely to double by 2015! Well done, China, and all kudos.

According to the report, there are 3Cs – China, Consumer and Convergence — that China has been focusing on. However, there are three more Cs — Culture, Content and Contribution — that the report urges China to focus on.

The report states: “The companies must accommodate and adjust to the differing cultures of overseas customers. They must learn more about end-content sectors that drive the growth of technology markets. And China’s fabless firms must take advantage of government contributions to the industry, given that Beijing has instituted a range of policies designed to improve the fabless industry in areas including investments, tax rates and capital investments.”

Having taken its own sweet time,  the Chinese fabless industry is coming up well, and fast! However, what is the state of the fabless market in India?

If one goes back to Dec. 2009, Pravin Desale,  VP and MD India operations, LSI Corp., while speaking at Mentor Graphics’ U2U conference, had said that India has only two (2) fabless firms. If this number, or even a number below double digit is considered to be correct, then India surely has a lot of catching up to do!

Now, who are the leaders in the fabless semiconductor business globally? That’s Qualcomm, Broadcom, even AMD (as per 2010 reports), MediaTek and Marvell. Four of these companies are based in the USA, leaving MediaTek as the only Asian (Taiwan) representative.

Do Indian companies have the necessary experience of designing complete chips from scratch? Perhaps, some may have. Can the Indian companies get the silicon manufactured easily (local manufacturing) and later, debugging it? Here comes the first major gray area! Do the Indian companies have easy access to tools? Perhaps, some, most of them, have that access today!

Now, guess what? The last para — I had written about 7 years ago!  😉

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