EE Times-China survey indicates rapid advancement in mainland China's fabless industry

With use of 28nm or below process technologies for digital ICs quadrupling YOY
IC leaders discussed trends at industry event in Tianjin as winners of 2014 China IC Design Awards were revealed
2014-11-24 17:46 1775

TIANJIN, China, November 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- EE Times-China, a leading electronic engineering title of Global Sources' (NASDAQ: GSOL) joint venture subsidiary, eMedia Asia Limited, has revealed the results of its 13th annual China IC Design Survey and seventh IC Design Awards. Survey findings show marked improvement in the fabless industry's design capability: 29 percent of respondent companies utilize cutting-edge 28nm or below process technologies for digital IC designs, more than quadrupling from 7 percent in 2013. For analog and mixed-signal ICs, the use of sophisticated 0.18??m or below technologies has also increased substantially to 51 and 60 percent, respectively (2013: 44 and 43 percent, respectively).

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Brandon Smith, Publisher of EE Times-China, said: "The semiconductor industry is a strategic sector supported by the Chinese government, and we have seen continual growth in the scale of local fabless companies. In this year's Survey, 34 percent reported annual sales of more than US$50 million, a welcomed increase from 22 percent last year. The average workforce has also substantially expanded from 194 to 263, and the number of IC designers from 109 to 160. While the typical fabless still lags behind the world's top players in scale, the leading mainland China IC design companies already see annual sales of more than US$1 billion."

As part of the Survey, winners of the 2014 China IC Design Awards were selected through online voting by local system design engineers, as well as by fabless companies participating in the Survey and EE Times-China analysts. The awards winners were announced at a dinner in Tianjin on Nov. 21, where the Survey results were unveiled to more than 150 executives from the semiconductor industry. Jin Donghu, Vice Director of People's Government of Tianjin Binhai New Area and Wang Xuejia, Director of Development and Reform Bureau, Administrative Commission of Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area delivered speeches at the event and Ma Xuan, Vice Secretary-General of Tianjin IC Industry Association / Chief Engineer of Tianjin TEDA Science & Technology Development Group as one of the awards presenters.

The China IC Leader Summit was held to coincide with the award presentation, and the stellar speaker lineup included:

  • Marshal Cheng, Vice President, Leadcore Technology
  • Zhu Yiming,CEO and President, GigaDevice
  • Zhou Zhengyu, CEO, Actions Semiconductor
  • Zhang Fan, President, Goodix

They discussed the future mainland China chips for smartphones, smart devices driven by the mobile Internet, biometrics and sensor technologies, as well as the ecosystem for IoT and smart home.

Smartphones and smart devices to drive IC development

Consumer electronics remains the main applications of mainland China-designed ICs, led by tablet PCs, mobile phones and set-top-boxes, although its share has dropped to 47 percent this year from 60 percent in 2013. For computer applications, the ratio of desktop and notebook computers has dropped, and 16 percent of respondents supply ICs for small-scale servers, which is a new option in this year's survey.

The ratio of telecommunication applications, such as wireless network and base station equipment, has risen significantly from 10 percent in 2013 to 19 percent this year. This growth is driven by the issuance of 4G licenses in mainland China and the related construction of nearly a million 4G base stations. Base station equipment was a newly added option last year, and its ratio rises considerably to 17 percent this year (2013: 6 percent).

EE Times-China analysts expect smartphones and smart devices to continue to drive the local IC design industry, due to the presence of numerous manufacturers in mainland China.

As for the use of foundries, the dominance of TSMC and SMIC has greatly increased, with companies using them accounting for 40 percent and 32 percent, respectively (2013: both at 24 percent). This could be because local fabless companies are more inclined to choose sophisticated foundries to avoid the problem of inadequate capacity.

Cost becomes the biggest challenge when IC design companies contract foundries, although fewer state it as a major challenge this year (2014: 45 percent, 2013: 54 percent).

Alongside the jump in company size, the proportion of IC design engineers in China's fabless companies has also grown. Conversely, the average number of projects has dropped from 8.5 last year to seven this year. This is caused by increasing design difficulty, faster time-to-market and rising tapeout costs, and reflects the technology-intensive nature of the IC design industry as well as the desire for first pass silicon success. "We expect fabless companies will increasingly reuse design, purchase third-party IP as well as outsource design in the future," Smith added.

Already, more respondents indicate "insufficient IP library" as a major challenge this year (34 percent, up from 28 percent in 2013) when working with foundries. And as many as 86 percent of IC design companies use IP cores, increasing from 73 percent in 2013. As such, design iterations have become a much bigger challenge (rising to 22 percent this year from 4 percent in 2013).

Two challenges have also become more common this year: communication with foundry (increasing to 33 percent of respondents from last year's 24 percent) and incompatible process technology (from 13 percent in 2013 to 18 percent in 2014). Both are related to using more advanced process technologies.

The 2014 China IC Design Awards and China IC Leader Summit are sponsored by TEDA-Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area, Synposys, Cadence, Silvaco, Actions Semiconductor, Huntersun, DIOO Microcircuits, Leadcore Technology, Mouser Electronics, VeriSilicon, and are supported by Global Sources' Chief Executive China.

For more information on EE Times-China's 13th annual China IC Design Survey, please visit

2014 China IC Design Awards winners revealed

2014 China IC Design Awards winners as voted by mainland China's system design engineers are (in alphabetical order):

  • Top 5 China IC Design Brands: Dioo Microcircuits, GigaDevice, Leadcore Technology, SGMICRO, and Spreadtrum Communications (Shanghai)
  • Top 5 Most Promising China IC Design Companies: Goodix, HunterSun, Shenzhen Betterlife Electronic Science and Technology, Shenzhen Chipsvision Micro, and Vimicro
  • Top 5 Outstanding Technical Support: Cellix Revealing Technology, CHIPONE, Ingenic Semiconductor, VeriSilicon Microelectronics (Shanghai), and Wuxi Si-Power Micro-electronics

Hot Products of the Year (in alphabetical order of company names):

  • Best Wireless/RF IC of the Year: Beken (BK5823), HangZhou ZhongKe Microelectronics (ATGS01), and Vimicro (WS962x series)
  • Best Power Management of the Year: BYD Microelectronics (BM3451/BM3452 series), EASE POWER (EDP103x/EDP23xx series), and Wuxi Chipown Micro-electronic (PN8316/8317)
  • Best Power Device/Driver IC of the Year: Shenzhen CYT Opto-electronic Technology (CYT3000A), Giantec Semiconductor (GT976X), and Shenzhen Chipsea Technologies (CSU8RP3429)
  • Best Processor/FPGA of the Year: BLX IC Design (GSC328x), Leadcore Technology (LC1860), and Spreadtrum Communications (Shanghai) (SC883XG)
  • Best MCU/Memory/Interface IC of the Year: Hangzhou Synochip Technologies (AS650), Shanghai Fudan Microelectronics (FM330X), and WST (WS3085N)
  • Best MEMS/Sensor of the Year: GalaxyCore (GC5004), Goodix (GF66xx), and QST (QMC6983)
  • Best Amplifier/Data Converter of the Year: 3PEAK (TP55xx), SGMICRO (SGM8743), and Shenzhen Betterlife Electronic Science and Technology (ECG detection chip)

Winners voted by companies participating in the 2014 China IC Design Survey are:

  • Most Recognized Foundry: TSMC
  • Outstanding Foundry of the Year: Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC)
  • Most Recognized EDA Vendor: Synopsys
  • Outstanding EDA Vendor of the Year: Cadence
  • Most Recognized IP Provider: ARM
  • Outstanding IP Provider of the Year: Synopsys

Winners voted by EE Times-China analysts are:

  • China IC Design Company of the Year: Actions Semiconductor, BYD Microelectronics, Capital Microelectronics, FocalTech Systems, and HunterSun
  • Innovative EDA Company of the Year: Altium and Silvaco
  • China IC Design Executive of the Year: Joseph Xie, General Manager of QST Corporation
  • China IC Design Team of the Year: VeriSilicon Microelectronics (Shanghai)'s IC Design Team, and Xi'an Semipower's Chip Design Team

For more information on the 2014 China IC Design Awards, please visit (in Chinese).

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Source: Global Sources