Intel evaluating India for chip manufacturing

Intel Corp. is evaluating India as a possible location for a new chip manufacturing facility, the company’s chief executive officer, Craig Barrett, told reporters Thursday in Delhi.

Intel, in Santa Clara, California, is one of only two multinational semiconductor companies to announce that it is evaluating setting up a fab in India. The other, Cypress Semiconductor Corp., in San Jose, California, announced earlier this year that it was considering setting up a facility to manufacture solar cells in India.

Intel already does key semiconductor design work in the country at a facility in Bangalore. Besides doing work on Intel’s Centrino mobile platform, the design centre is also designing a new 32-bit microprocessor for the enterprise market, which is a follow-on processor to the Xeon processor. During his visit to the facility Friday, Barrett is expected to announce plans to expand this facility.

Although a number of multinational semiconductor companies, such as Texas Instruments Inc., in Dallas, Tex., and Broadcom Corp., in Irvine, California, have chip design facilities in India, they have been reluctant to set up fabs in India, in part because of the country’s poor infrastructure.

The VLSI (Very Large Scale Integrated) fabs already in the country are run by government-owned companies, and use outdated technologies and sub-optimal production scales. Semiconductor Complex Ltd. (SCL) in Chandigarh, for example, has a six-inch wafer fabrication facility, capable of processing wafers in 0.8 micron technology. These facilities are primarily used by these companies for pilot production runs of chips they design.

As part of Barrett’s two-day visit to India, officials from Intel and the country’s ministry of communications and information technology also signed an agreement on Thursday to jointly develop computing platforms aimed at taking information technology to rural areas. The Indian government and Intel will work on making broadband wireless technologies affordable and viable as a “last mile” option for rural service delivery, it was announced in a joint statement.

Furthermore, Intel and the Indian government are setting up an Open Source Resource Center to provide technical assistance and support to Indian government projects on open source platforms. Intel will assist in building expertise in VLSI circuits design through curriculum design, faculty development workshops and research collaborations.

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