LONDON Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing (Singapore) now has qualification data available for its 0.25-micron and 0.18-micron CMOS process technologies, which it is readying for commercial availability. Optimized for RF applications, the 0.25-micron process is expected to be ready for prototype production early in 2001, and characterization of the 0.13-micron RF CMOS process is due to commence at about that time.
Chartered said it expects to qualify its baseline 0.13-micron process technology in the fourth quarter of 2001, and will complete process qualification in the first quarter of 2002.
At a nominal 0.13-micron drawn gate width, products made with the RF CMOS process are expected to be capable of operation at 1, 2.5 and 3.3 volts, with one layer of polysilicon and seven or eight layers of metal interconnect, including the option of copper interconnect.
The move to complete a road map of the RF CMOS process from 0.35 micron at present to 0.13 micron in just over a year is part of Chartered's effort to take a lead in RF and mixed-signal foundry work.
Chartered is currently the world's third largest silicon foundry manufacturer, behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and United Microelectronics Corp. The company said it is seeking to carve out a niche in communications similar to that of its rivals in the manufacture of digital circuits.
Describing itself as "the communications foundry," Chartered has deliberately chosen to support the analog and high-frequency circuit disciplines ahead of embedded memory. Its long-term partners for the development of basic CMOS process technology, Lucent and Motorola, are also predominantly communications companies.
While many RF and other analog active devices do not scale their physical dimensions are sometimes governed by the frequency of operation the option to manufacture them on a process capable of reduced geometries can minimize the room taken up by digital circuitry.
"The ability to manufacture leading-edge applications in RF CMOS is critical to high-growth markets such as wireless communications from both a cost and reliability standpoint," said John Martin, chief technology officer at Chartered. "We are especially excited about the potential of the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol and the participation of Ericsson and Oki in the definition of our road map in this area."
Ericsson Microelectronics AB (Stockholm, Sweden) and Chartered announced their collaboration on the RF CMOS process last December. Besides jointly developing RF-capable CMOS, the two companies are developing BiCMOS technologies. While both are being integrated into Chartered's and Ericsson's fabrication facilities, Chartered will be free to offer the processes to any other customers.
This is already beginning to pay off for Chartered, which has won a contract from Dialog Semiconductor plc (Stuttgart, Germany) for a three-year manufacturing deal potentially worth $250 million. Dialog is developing ASICs for Ericsson's 3G products.
Chartered has also supplied Cambridge Silicon Radio Ltd. (Cambridge, England) with silicon for its BlueCore 01 combination CMOS baseband and RF chip for Bluetooth.
Chartered is also working with Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd. (Tokyo) and the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics. Oki and IME announced plans to develop RF CMOS Bluetooth chips, initially targeted at Chartered's 0.35-micron CMOS process technology, in the spring of 1999.
Chartered's 0.25-micron qualification data includes design rules, device modeling and characterization data; prototype production is expected early in 2001. Preliminary design rules, modeling and characterization data are available for 0.18-micron. RF models and the full characterization report will become available in December 2000.
The RF CMOS road map is based on adding modules to a baseline CMOS technology that includes multiple and transistor configurations. Thus the RF CMOS module features a suite of passive components tuned for RF applications. These include spiral inductors, metal-insulator-metal capacitors, varactors and polysilicon resistors.
Allan Hughes, Chartered's recently appointed European region president, said that RF circuit manufacturing was already a significant although not yet dominant part of Chartered's business.