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China is determined to produce their own memory chips

Thursday, December 6, 2018

South Korea's dominance in the manufacture of DRAM memory seems solid, given that Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix together control three quarters of the global DRAM market, but China, eager to improve its semiconductor self-sufficiency, is not ready to give up.

As the world's largest importer of memory products, China is stepping up its ambitions to improve self-sufficiency in the sector. However, the recent US ban on exports to China's Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit, as well as the ongoing US-China trade tensions, will be slowing down the pace of development of China's local memory-chip sector.

Meanwhile, Samsung and SK Hynix continue to widen their technology gap with rivals in the DRAM segment, with Samsung already developing 10nm-class LPDDR5 chips and SK Hynix introducing the industry's first DDR5 memory that fully complies with JEDEC standards, reportsfrom South Korea have indicated.

Samsung and SK Hynix saw their combined share of the global DRAM market reach 74.6% in the third quarter of 2018, followed by Micron Technology with a 21.1% share, according to DRAMeXchange.

The escalating trade tensions between the US and China will also lead to a slowdown in China's homegrown chipmaking industry development, Powerchip Technology CEO Frank Huang was quoted as saying in recent reports.

The US ban on exports to Fujian Jinhua - accused alongside UMC of stealing trade secrets from Micron - marks a major setback in the development of China's memory sector.

Jinhua planned originally to have its first-generation 3Xnm DRAM production technology ready for production starting the end of 2018, but the export ban has left the company's operations in limbo.

Nevertheless, the Jinhua case could further prompt the China government to have deeper involvement in the development of the local high-tech industry sectors in order to raise the country's self-sufficiency, according to industry observers in China, though there is a long and probably bumpy road ahead.

Two other China-based memory startups - Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) and Innotron Memory (known previously as Hefei ChangXin or Hefei RuiLi) - are gearing up for commercial production in 2019, which will mark a significant step forward for China's ambitions in the memory business.

YMTC reportedly has started delivering samples of its 64-layer 3D NAND chip with volume production likely to kick off in the third quarter of 2019, and plans to move directly to the 128-layer generation with volume production scheduled for 2020.

Innotron expects to roll out its 8Gb DDR4 engineering samples at the end of 2018 and 8Gb LPDDR4 products in the third quarter of 2019, company newly-appointed CEO Yiming Zhu was quoted in previous reports. The company also has plans to complete its 17nm process technology R&D in 2021, according to Wang.

By: DocMemory
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