India wafer fab decision expected by end of 2012
2/7/2012 6:30 PM EST
BANGALORE, India—Details of the proposed semiconductor wafer fab to be set up in India are set to be announced by the end of the year at the latest, with talks between the federal government and interested companies getting down to brass tacks.
"The last time the government announced its scheme to have a wafer fabrication plant in India, well, it did not happen," said Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications and information technology.
Pilot said India's government is more flexible than it had been a few years ago, when a government-backed scheme to locate a chip fab in India failed. "We are far more willing to meet [a potential investor] halfway down the line," Pilot said. Pilot said the government is currently discussing what technology node an Indian wafer fab would be capable of and how long that technology is likely to remain relevant.
Speaking at the India Semiconductor Association’s (ISA) annual summit, Pilot said a decision will likely be made in the next few months, and at the latest, by the year-end.
India's government has said it plans to locate a wafer fab in the country and that the fab would be the beginning of a chip manufacturing ecosystem in India.
"The government will answer this problem by investing in and do whatever else is needed for a fab," said R. Chandrashekhar, secretary of India's Department of Information Technology. "Significant progress has been made in our talks with potential contenders."
Chandrashekhar said India's imminent National Electronics Policy would address the possibility that imports of electronic components and products would overtake the amount spent on petroleum imports within a decade.
The seventh annual summit of the ISA, like the first one, is grappling with the issue of a lack of an electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country. Speaking at the summit, Aart de Geus, chairman and CEO of EDA and IP vendor Synopsys Inc., said the question of whether India should have electronics manufacturing would be somewhat addressed due to the success of the Akash tablet, the low-cost, Android-based tablet designed by U.K. firm Datawind and built by India-based Quanta, which is distributed to Indian college students and sold commercially at a subsidized price.
"This brings up the question of electronics manufacturing—power availability, distribution, Wi-Fi access, software, fabless semiconductor design—and India must decide which areas it wants to differentiate itself in before spending billions on a fab," de Geus said. "The [pent-up] demand for the tablet computer begs the question of manufacturing in India."