The plan, announced in 2015, was for Cricket to break ground for an analog and power circuit wafer fab in 2016 – with Indore in Madhya Pradesh as the likely location – and that it would begin producing chips in 2018.
“The project has taken longer than we had anticipated, and it may continue to move at a pace that is slower than our preference,” Lou Hutter, a former Texas Instruments executive working on the project, said in email correspondence with eeNews Europe.
Hutter said he and others had put tens of thousands of hours into the project, but it remains challenged by concerns over Indian infrastructure, a perception that there is a lack of indigenous semiconductor manufacturing expertise, and the high level of capital expenditure required to start a semiconductor wafer fab business.
“Progress in India can be very slow, and that is what we have seen. We have spent over three years, putting in tens of thousands of hours of time and energy, as well as resources, on this project. And we did this because we want to help India establish its first world-class production fab, and we are confident that an analog/power wafer fab is the most cost-effective and defensible way to do this,” Hutter said in email.
Hutter said his team had found a receptive audience with strategic investors including multinational semiconductor companies. “They vetted our business and financial assumptions, ratifying the basic tenets of our world-class analog/power foundry strategy. It must be noted, however, that there is skepticism among these established semiconductor players regarding a wafer fab in India, for exactly the factors mentioned above, particularly the infrastructure issues.”
Next: Talking to other countries
Hutter added: “Interestingly, a number of other countries have talked to us about siting this project in their region; all are places where the factors discussed above are eliminated entirely or greatly diminished. We are very confident in our specialty wafer fab strategy and the positive economic impact it will have on the country where it is built.
After working for Texas Instruments, Hutter worked as senior vice president at Dongbu HiTek (Seoul, South Korea) where he created and ran an analog foundry business unit.
However, one of the Cricket team has moved on. Former Globalfoundries executive Aabid Husain, joined Cricket Semiconductor as chief marketing officer in July 2015. Husain has now been hired as vice president of business development and sales at Atomera inc. (Los Gatos, Calif.), a semiconductor materials intellectual property licensing company.
If Cricket does pull out of India it could represent a third strike for the sub-continent.
In March 2014, after several years of discussion, the Indian government launched a plan to build two digital fabs. In 2016 local cement and infrastructure company Jaiprakash Associates pulled out of a consortium formed to build a wafer fab in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh, which included IBM and Tower Semiconductor Ltd. (see Lead partner pulls out of India fab plan). The second consortium, comprising HSMC Technologies, STMicroelectronics and Silterra Malaysia Sdn Bhd, has proposed to set up semiconductor wafer fabrication manufacturing facility in Gujarat. However, in the second half of 2016 that group was reportedly trying to attract equity and debt funding.
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