| SHENZHEN, China Despite a bleak scenario for the global semiconductor market, China's integrated circuit design industry posted significant growth in 2004, according to the "IC Design House Survey" conducted by EE Times—Asia. |
By the end of 2004, 421 companies were involved in IC design in mainland China, according to the survey, and the number of electronics manufacturers increased to about 16,500. Moreover, total revenues reached $984 million an increase of 41.5 percent over the previous year.
The growth is attributed to the demand in display drivers, smart cards, wireless communications and multimedia chips. In the next four years, the compound annual growth rate is forecasted to reach 65 percent, with sales value reaching $9.6 billion in 2008.
Last year, most mass-produced ICs used 0.18-micron manufacturing processes. Only a few products were developed using 0.13-micron technology, with research moving toward 90 nm. The maximum level of production integration reached about 50 million gates. Leading products included TFT-LCDs and LED drivers from Solomon Systech, MP3 chips from Actions Semiconductor and 2G digital ID cards from Huada Electronics.
Some companies developed competitive IC design technology. For example, Huawei developed a switcher IC with nearly 50 million gates using 0.13-micorn CMOS technology. Spreadtrum Communications, meanwhile, manufactured a single TD-SCDMA/GSM/GPRS multimode baseband chip using advanced 0.18-micron mixed-signal CMOS technology. NanShanBridge Co. Ltd successfully developed a 14 million gate Ethernet router switch chip using a 0.18-micron CMOS process.
SoC chip design is considered the breakthrough point in China's IC design industry's efforts as a way to realize so-called "collective breakout." With more companies entering the field of SoC design, integration of software and hardware becomes more challenging. Companies responding to the survey said their greatest challenge was meeting fierce market competition and much shorter product life that have decreased IC design cycle times.
Jake Chen and Cindy Hu are editors at sister publication EE Times-China.