Weekly news roundup: Foreign suppliers concerned about China's chip equipment industry scaling through import substitution

Peng Chen, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


These are the most-read DIGITIMES Asia stories in the week of April 15 - April 19.

China's chip equipment industry gains momentum in import substitution, alarming foreign suppliers

Foreign semiconductor equipment suppliers have tried to seize opportunities in the lucrative Chinese market while remaining cautious about potential displacement by locally competitors, who have ramped up import substitution efforts. China now imports over 85% of the semiconductor equipment it needs and produces 14% itself. According to a recent report from China-based Yicai Global, Japanese equipment manufacturer Nikon is closely monitoring the rise of its Chinese counterpart, Naura Technology Group, showing foreign companies' anxiety about their Chinese competitors.

China-based SICC becomes second-largest SiC wafer provider globally

According to Japan-based Fuji Keizai, SICC, a Chinese silicon carbide (SiC) substrate material company, became the world's second-largest conducive SiC substrate provider in 2023, defeating US-based Coherent. SICC supplies about 50% of the top ten power semiconductor manufacturers worldwide. In May 2023, Infineon entered into a long-term agreement with Chinese TankeBlue and SICC for SiC wafers and boules. SICC has expanded production at its Jinan site and begun mass production at its Shanghai plant.

Indian imports of monocrystalline silicon wafers from China have surged, why?

China's customs data showed that India imported silicon wafers worth US$318 million from China in 2023, a 91.2% growth from 2022. About 83.5% of the wafers were monocrystalline wafers larger than 150mm. India was the fifth-largest importer of China-made silicon wafers. The South Asian country is scaling its solar manufacturing capacity and trying to build a local chipmaking ecosystem, driving its demand for imported wafers.

SMIC-backed chipmaker plays catchup as China formulates silicon IP strategy

Chinese media reported that top Chinese IC design service providers VeriSilicon Microelectronics and Brite Semiconductor have made significant progress. VeriSilicon started to focus on the smart automotive market a few years ago and has developed chips on the 5nm process. About 52% of its customized chip projects are based on process platforms below 28 nanometers and 26% below 14 nanometers. Brite Semiconductor, which formed a strategic cooperation with SMIC in 2010, recently went public in China. It successfully tapped out a 40nm AI voice recognition chip in 2019.

Huawei vs. Samsung: who leads the global communication equipment race?

According to data from London-based consultancy firm Omdia, Huawei dominated the global communication equipment sector with a market share of 31.3% in 2023. The Chinese company showed its resilience despite facing growing pressure to exit the European market. Ericsson accounted for 24.3% of the communication equipment market, while Nokia held 19.5% and China's ZTE took up 13.9%. Samsung Electronics, the world's fifth-largest communication equipment manufacturer, saw its market share decline by 1.6 percentage points to 6.1%.

Samsung executives visited Taiwan and TSMC in secret for HBM collaboration

Sources in Taiwan's semiconductor supply chain said several high-level executives of Samsung's Device Solutions (DS) division recently visited some major local manufacturers on the island. The high-bandwidth memory (HBM) was reportedly the main purpose of the delegation, which hoped to build a bridge of friendship with TSMC. Samsung executives also met their counterparts at UMC and MediaTek. Market rumors stated that Samsung's top management has frequently visited Taiwan to meet with suppliers related to TSMC's equipment material supply chain, aiming for product technology cooperation.

Samsung and SK Hynix reportedly to resume memory capacity expansion plans

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix were rumored to plan to resume capacity expansion at its Pyeongtaek and Cheongju fabs. According to South Korea-based Newstomato, Samsung has begun cleanroom construction at its P4 and will likely resume production in June. SK Hynix is scheduled to resume constructing its M15X project in mid-April. The companies put their projects on hold during the previous business downturn.