TOKYO Reaffirming its commitment to memory production for mobile terminals, Mitsubishi Electric Co. this year will integrate flash, SRAM and the company's Mobile RAM technology into a new memory package that will go on sale this fall.
Dubbed the Mobile Memory, the technology triple stacks a 64-Mbit DRAM plus twin 8-Mbit devices into a Memory Chip Package (MCP) that will ramp to production this spring, said Moriyoshi Nakashima, manager at the memory IC division of Mitsubishi's semiconductor group.
Mitsubishi has been using the MCP platform in its drive for higher memory densities since the company debuted its first MCP back in 1997. But the Mobile Memory will differ from Mitsubishi's current MCP offerings by adding the company's Mobile RAM technology. Mobile RAM technology adds a low-power SRAM interface to a 16- or 32-Mbit DRAM memory cell to combine SRAM's low power and fast access times with DRAM densities. Mobile RAM cells, now sampling, draw under 100 microamperes compared to the 300-to-400 microamperes of DRAM cells, while delivering access times as low as 70 nanoseconds, Nakashima said.
The company's plans were announced at a strategic briefing by Mitsubishi's semiconductor group. The company declined to say which companies are receiving samples of the latest MCP and Mobile RAM devices, but company officials made it clear they see 2001 as the year in which the semiconductor group consolidates its position as a flash supplier for the global mobile phone market.
Mitsubishi said it held 50 percent of the global market last year for 32-Mbit flash shipments used in mobile phones. The company wants more of the same success in 2001 as it migrates to higher densities to meet demand for 2.5 and 3G terminals, according to Hirokazu Harima, general manager of the semiconductor group's memory IC division at Mitsubishi. "We want to go to 60 percent," he said.
While estimates of demand for mobile terminals through 2003 fluctuated drastically last year, Mitsubishi estimates that global sales will increase to 489 million units in 2001, 603 million in 2002, and 718 million in 2003, according to Koreaki Fujita, a manager in the company's semiconductor marketing planning department.
Fujita said the company expects strong sales in Japan and Korea, as Mitsubishi believes consumers there will be most willing to accept phones with higher prices and higher functionality. He suggested that Mitsubishi is cautiously optimistic about the acceptance of 2.5 and 3 G terminals in Europe, but that the outlook for sales in the United States and Taiwan is less certain. "The United States will be the last guy to come in with i-Mode type applications, " he said.
As Mitsubishi refocuses on mobile memory applications, the company's semiconductor group has successfully lessened its exposure to the DRAM market in general, and to commodity DRAMs in particular, said Harima. The company has achieved its goal of moving from a DRAM-centric to a "more balanced" memory portfolio, he said.
Back in 1998, DRAM accounted for nearly 70 percent of the company's total in memory sales. In 2000, the company tallied about $690 million in DRAM sales while SRAM and flash accounted for $1.22 billion in sales. By 2005, the company hopes to top $3.36 billion in sales, with $2.23 billion coming from SRAM and flash products.
Mitsubishi's DRAM road map is now focused on the workstation, server and communications segments with high-density double-date-rate DRAMs, said Harima. Even as DRAM prices tumble, Mitsubishi feels it is now fairly insulated from the worst an impending downturn can offer, he said.