TORRANCE, Calif. -- In the mid- to late-1990s, a handful of startups emerged and entered into the pure-play gallium arsenide (GaAs) foundry business.
One of those hopefuls included Global Communication Semiconductors Inc. (GCS) of Torrance. Like its rivals, GCS hoped to offer GaAs foundry services for OEMs and chip makers. In the late 1990s, the company opened a 4-inch compound semiconductor fab for foundry services.
But at that time, analysts believed there were too many GaAs foundries chasing after too few customers. Unlike the silicon foundry business--which exploded in recent times--the GaAs foundry sector was--and still is--a tiny niche market. And today, it's widely believed the GaAs foundries are all losing money--with no relief in sight.
The trends have prompted some GaAs foundries to revamp their strategies. This week, for example GCS moved to re-position itself, announcing it has become a "virtual" optoelectronics foundry.
Some believe GCS could be headed towards another dead end. The optoelectronics market was in vogue during the communications boom in the late 1990s, but the market crashed during the downturn starting in late 2000. And there is no evidence that optoelectronics is making a recovery.
Officials from GCS insisted it's on the right path, however. In addition to GaAs, the III-V compound semiconductor wafer foundry this week said it would expand its services for the optoelectronics industry due to market demand. At present, the company offers several process technologies, including indium gallium phosphide (InGaP) heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs) and indium phosphide (InP) HBTs.
"GCS provides foundry services in optoelectronics for products such as QWIP detectors, modulators, VCSELs, GaAs and InGaAs PIN diodes and arrays on 4-inch wafers," said Owen Wu, founder and chief strategy officer of GCS.
Wu had been the president and CEO until last year, when the company shook up its operations. Last year, the company elected chip veteran Donald Brooks, the former president of Fairchild Semiconductor, TSMC and UMC, as chairman. Brooks is also the chairman of KLM Capital Group.
Shortly after that announcement, GCS last year named Sam Lee as its new CEO, replacing Wu, who became chief strategy officer.
GSC has several investors, including TCW/YFY Investment Partners, FIC, Kwang Hua Investment Holding, SinoStar Capital, Sirenza Microdevices Inc., and KLM Capital Group.
Sirenza, a fabless chip maker, is one of GCS' customers. Celeritek, Inphi, Plextek and others are also doing business with the foundry company.