In light of production efficiency, Xilinx Inc. and Altera Corp., both globally leading PLD (programmable logic devices) solution providers, are placing increasing orders for FPGA (field-programmable gate array) chips with Taiwanese makers in the semiconductor industry, according to industry sources.
The recent global economic downturn has forced suppliers of PLD solutions to step up replacing ASIC (Application specific integrated circuits) solutions for FPGA models in the products, in an effort to achieve cost efficiency to withstand the global economic downturn.
According to estimates made by Gartner, the number of completed ASIC tape-outs this year will be 22% less than the corresponding figure in 2008, due mainly to prohibitive prices making the product unattractive, especially when the market demand is shrinking.
Xinlix estimates that a new ASIC chip developed through the 45-nanometer process, costs about US$60 million, or even up to US$1 billion in the 32-nanometer process. Besides, the whole development process, from design and production to tape-out, is too lengthy to meet the rapidly-changing IT (information technology) market trends. Thus, FPGA-based products, featuring lower design costs and shorter design spans than ASIC, become popular in the PLD solution market, according to Moshe Gavrielov, CEO of the firm.
In fact, Chinese CO (central office) equipment suppliers have increasingly used FPGA solutions instead of traditional DSP (digital signal processor) in their 3G chips. Also, FPGA solutions have been widely adopted in chips for embedded systems and consumer electronics, like digital TVs and blu-ray disc drives.
In the meantime, as China's big three telecom service providers, namely China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, will together pour hundreds of billions RMB in construction of 3G access in the local market, demand for FPGA-based chips is expected to explosively surge this year, thus driving Xilinx and Altera to increase orders with relevant Taiwanese makers, including TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd.), UMC (United Microelectronics Corporation), ASE (Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc.), SPIL (Siliconware Precision Industries Co., Ltd.) and Kinsus Interconnect Technology Corp.