NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- After being spun-out from Conexant Systems Inc. nearly 18 months ago, silicon-germanium (SiGe) foundry specialist Jazz Semiconductor Inc. is expanding its repertoire and developing what is believed to be the world's fastest SiGe technology.
Jazz is preparing a major thrust in the 0.13-micron market, devising 130-nm versions of its separate SiGe and CMOS processes. Due out in prototype form by 2004, the company's 0.13-micron SiGe technology is said to operate at 300-GHz (Ft)--or 1.5 times faster than its current, high-speed 200-GHz (Ft) SiGe process, according to Jazz' roadmap.
The Newport Beach-based company is also readying a new 100-GHz version of its existing 0.18-micron SiGe technology. The offering is geared for low-cost, integrated wireless and wireline applications, said Jeff McHenry, executive director of marketing for Jazz.
The company has a strong SiGe and "foundry-compatible" CMOS process-technology portfolio, but Jazz is mainly focusing on the emerging SiGe foundry business, according to McHenry.
Jazz does not target its CMOS process in order to compete against the foundry giants in Taiwan and Singapore. Instead, the CMOS process compliments its core SiGe offerings and is geared for specialized RF CMOS applications, he said. "As a result, we are able to differentiate ourselves from companies like TSMC and UMC," he said in an interview with Silicon Strategies.
Ironically, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) licensed its SiGe process from Jazz' parent--Conexant--and the Taiwan company also competes in the SiGe foundry market. But Jazz' main competitor is IBM Corp.'s Microelectronics Division, the pioneer and acknowledged leader in SiGe and the corresponding foundry market, according to analysts. Atmel, Communicant, and others offer SiGe foundry services as well.
Jazz is also beginning to make some melodic noise after emerging some 18 months ago. Last year, Conexant spun-out its specialty IC manufacturing operations into a new and independent SiGe foundry company. Conexant also struck an agreement with The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, which owns 55 percent of the new spin-off foundry company. Following those events, the new foundry company was named Jazz Semiconductor ( see May 6, 2002 story ).
In the first half of 2003, Jazz was ranked as the world's sixth largest pure-play foundry, with $90 million in sales in that period, according to IC Insights Inc. The company was ranked behind TSMC, UMC, Chartered, Dongbu/Anam, and SMIC, according to the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based market research firm ( see Aug. 20 story ).
SiGe market still hot
In total, the SiGe device market alone is expected to grow from $400 million in 2003, to $500 million in 2004, according to Jazz. "In general, we believe the foundry outsourcing trend in SiGe will follow the same trend in digital CMOS," McHenry said.
The compound-semiconductor market is projected to have an average annual growth rate of 22 percent from 2002 through 2007, as compared to a 10 percent forecast for the total IC market over the same time period, according to IC Insights.
Devices based on compound-semiconductor technology--such as gallium-arsenide (GaAs) and SiGe--are faster and have several performance advantages over silicon, such as higher frequency operation, improved signal reception, better signal processing in congested frequency bands, and greater power efficiency, IC Insights said.
Compound-semiconductor ICs are still largely based on GaAs, which represented 87 percent of this market in 2002, according to IC Insights. But SiGe is expected to achieve 33 percent market share in this sector by 2007, according to the firm.
Still, Jazz has a big hill to climb. More than 80 percent of the company's sales are generated from Conexant and its affiliates, such as Mindspeed, Pictos, and Skyworks, according to McHenry.
Jazz' goal is to reduce its sales dependence on Conexant from more than 80 percent to 50 percent by next year. The SiGe foundry company claims to be "engaged" with 40 different customers and is involved with a total of 60 designs. "Right now, it's going very well for us,' he said. "We see the (sales) crossover point next year."
The company faces other challenges. Jazz not only faces stiff competition from IBM, but the overall SiGe foundry market may be limited to some degree, according to analysts. Intel, Motorola, Texas Instruments, and other integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) have developed their own, respective SiGe processes.
And the overall SiGe market has been slowed by the current and severe downturn in the communications market, most notably wireline. Before it became Jazz, Conexant in recent times rolled out what it claimed was the world's fastest SiGe process--a 200-GHz technology geared for bleeding-edge applications, such as the 40-gigabit-per-second networks.
Jazz' SiGe roadmap
Jazz offers the 200-GHz SiGe technology, but there is no customer demand for the process right now. "There is no customer pull for this process," McHenry said. "The 40-G market has not taken off. We are waiting for the resurgence of the (higher-end) networking market."
That's not stopping the company from developing a 300-GHz version--dubbed SiGe300--which could be the world's fastest SiGe process. Last year, IBM announced what the company claimed was the world's fastest silicon transistor, built around a new, high-speed version of its SiGe process technology. Claiming a transit frequency (Ft) of 350-GHz, IBM's SiGe transistor will be in production in the 2005 to 2006 time frame.
Jazz claims it will offer prototyping and design kits for its SiGe300 process in mid-2004, with production slated in mid-2005. The company did not disclose the details of SiGe300.
Meanwhile, the company is also devising a 0.13-micron CMOS process with an undisclosed Japanese company, which is also due out in mid-2004. Like its current 0.18-micron CMOS process, the 0.13-micron offering is geared for advanced RF CMOS applications.
And not to be outdone, it will offer a new version of its 0.18-micron SiGe technology, dubbed SiGe100, by year's end. At present, Jazz offers two types of 0.18-micron SiGe technology: SiGe90 and SiGe120. SiGe90 runs at 78-GHz (Ft) and SiGe120 operates at a peak of 155-GHz (Ft).
"90-GHz is the sweet spot of the SiGe market," he said. SiGe100 operates at the same speeds as SiGe90, but it is geared for "cost-sensitive wireless applications," he said. SiGe100 enables chip makers to shrink and integrate the analog and passive-component portions of their designs.
SiGe fabs in place
While Jazz has solidified its foundry roadmap, the company has also put its manufacturing strategy in place. At present, Jazz has an 8-inch, 0.18-micron fab in Newport Beach, which is capable of running 21,000 wafers per month. The fab was previously owned by Conexant.
Earlier this year, Jazz and Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. of Shanghai, China, formed a silicon manufacturing venture to which Jazz plans to contribute mixed-signal and radio-frequency (RF) technologies, including bipolar CMOS (BiCMOS) and silicon-germanium (SiGe) BiCMOS process technology, sales and marketing services. In turn ASMC is slated to provide capacity at its recently completed 200-mm wafer fabrication facility in Shanghai ( see Jan. 31 story ).
China is a key for Jazz' future on both the sales and production fronts. It's unlikely Jazz will build another fab in the United States. "Our expansion plans will be in China," McHenry added.