Tuesday, August 31, 2010

4G RAN status and trends: Vendors search for winning strategy

Maravedis 4G organized a webinar on 4G RAN (radio access network) market status and trends, moderated by Adlane Fellah, research director, Maravedis. The speakers were Chad Pralle, analyst partner, and Robert Syputa, senior analyst and advisor, both from Maravedis.

According to Pralle, data usage explosion has been happening due to new devices and applications, leading to order of magnitude growth in network elements, which creates opportunities in flexibilty addition and opex reduction.

Syputa pointed out that vendors are searching for a winning strategy in a shifting industry as integrated network services fuel sales and consolidation.

More details in a while.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Solar PV likely showstopper at electronica India 2010 & productronica India 2010!

Don't be surprised that given the major strides undertaken by India in solar PV, this industry and its pavilion could well turn out to be the showstopper or the lead attraction, besides LEDs and other electronic components, at the upcoming electronica India 2010 and productronica India 2010 – which will be held in the sprawling Bangalore International Exhibition Center on Sept. 7-10.

For those interested, since its debut in 2009, this show has been split into two sections – productronica India -- devoted to production technologies, SMT and EMS/contract manufacturers, PCB, solar and PV, laser, etc., and electronica India – focused on components, semiconductors, assemblies, LEDs and materials.

This year, there are going to be three added attractions or special exhibit areas, namely:
* Solar pavilion.
* LED pavilion.
* Laser pavilion.

Solar PV main attraction
Solar PV is likely to be the main attraction! A report on the ‘Solar PV Industry 2010: Contemporary Scenario and Emerging Trends’ released by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) with the support of the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA), lays out the strengths and challenges of the Indian solar PV market:

• Even though the industry operates at a smaller scale as compared to other solar PV producing nations, production in India is very cost effective as compared to global standards.

• With Government initiatives such as the SIPS scheme and JN-NSM in place to promote application of solar PV in domestic market, the Indian solar PV industry is likely to gain further edge over other solar PV producing nations.

• There is no manufacturing base in India for the basic raw material - silicon wafers.

• Over the last five years, China has emerged as the largest producer of solar cells in the world. The country currently has about 2,500 MW of production capacity for solar PV as compared to India’s 400 MW. Taiwan, with annual capacity of 800 MW, is also emerging as a major threat to the Indian industry.

• Price reduction is another major challenge for the industry as this would have greatly impact the future growth of the market.

The recently concluded Solarcon India 2010 threw up several interesting points as well. Industry observers agreed that the timely implementation of phase 1 of the historic Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM) is going to be critical for the success of this Mission.

The MNRE also stressed on the need to develop an indigenous solar PV manufacturing capacity in solar, and build a service infrastructure. Strong emphasis is also being placed on R&D, and quite rightly. Notably, the Indian government is working toward tackling issues involved with project financing as well.

All the right steps and noises are currently being taken and made in the Indian solar PV industry. If these weren't enough, the TÜV Rheinland recently opened South Asia's largest PV testing lab in Bangalore!

This year, an exhibitor forum on PV and solar will take place at the Solar PV pavilion during electronica India 2010 and productronica India 2010.

LEDs major interest area
LEDs have emerged as another area of interest in India. In the JN-NSM, the government of India has set a target of depoying 20 million solar lighting systems for rural areas in the country by 2022! While it seems to be a moderate target, even reaching this target will be some achievement on India's part!

When we talk about off grid applications, there is a need to look at rural lighting. The 20 million target broadly means covering 4,000 households every day from the 15th of June over the next 12 years. Solar lighting is a revolution waiting to happen. There is also a need to find suitable business models of solar power for village community, and try and provide livelihood opportunities.

LEDMA is born!
Given the escalating interest in LEDs, the LED products Manufacturers Association (LEDMA) was floated in Hyderabad in the second week of August 2010. LEDMA will address the issues of the growing LED industry in India, also educate about the future lighting technology. It will serve as a platform for LED product manufacturers across the country to strengthen and develop the LED industry.

The Association aims to promote awareness about solid state lighting and introduce energy efficient lighting systems, which makes optimum use of available power resources in India.

LEDMA also seeks to draw the Government's attention towards subsidy for LED lighting products and hopes to help waive-off of taxes as in the case of solar products in the country.

Look forward to solar PV and LEDs sweeping the show this year!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Intel's McAfee buy: Too few answers to too many questions, for now!

Yes I know I am a little late with this due to various reasons, but better late than never!

On August 19th, Intel literally shocked the IT and information security world with its acquisition of McAfee for a whopping $7.68 billion approximately! Startled, a lot of folks started asking around as to why Intel did such a thing! Is Intel even doing the right thing in the first place?

The world boasts of several magnificent gadgets and devices -- mobile phones and smartphones, Internet connected TVs, Wi-Fi enabled eReaders, the iPads, portable navigation devices with wireless interfaces, and so on and so forth! Now, how many of these devices actually boast of great security? Aren't most of those unprotected?

With so many devices, besides smartphones, getting connected to the Internet every day, and with little or no on-board or 'in-house' security in place, this move is perhaps a masterstroke on Intel's part!

But then, not all of such devices would run on Intel's chips either! So? How will Intel control the hardware security market and create a monopoly -- as some have been pointing out? Or, is there a much larger, hidden picture, which will get revealed over time?

Or, has this been done with the intention to rule the mobile security market, or well, security within the chip, or even device security or hardware security? Also, will this signal the end of malware?

And what about McAfee itself? Will this signal an end to all of its wonderful product development now that it will be part of Intel? What about its customers? Will some of its top executives march out? Intel says that McAfee will continue to run as is, and one hopes that it is maintained.

Personally, I was keen to know what Symantec thought of this acquisition. The company stated: The announcement by Intel to acquire McAfee emphasizes the growing relevance and need for security protection that extends beyond the PC and acknowledges Symantec's ongoing strategy.

However, Symantec believes it is important to focus security on identities and the information people need to access, independent of the device they may be using. That will require security to work seamlessly across multiple platforms as users switch devices to use, store and transmit information anytime and anywhere. Symantec offers a broad portfolio of security and management solutions that protects customers from the largest enterprises to SMBs to consumers.

Divided house, and too many questions!
The house seems to be divided! Yes, the onus is clearly on security! The acquisition probably sits very well with Intel's mobile security strategy. That's what made Intel go for McAfee in the first place!

However, to be truly effective, security needs to work across various levels – platform, network, device, business, etc. A chip with security software inside may not really be the answer to enterprise, mobile, network and device security issues so soon! But who knows!!

As Andy Kellett, senior analyst, Security, Ovum, says, "potentially this is just the tip of an iceberg as unprotected, Internet-enabled devices are already flooding onto the business and home-user markets."

Well, there too many questions that time needs to and will surely answer!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

'Look ahead' scenario for global semicon sales forecast: Cowan LRA model update

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

In advance of this release, Mike Cowan wishes to again share an additional feature of the Cowan LRA Model for forecasting worldwide semiconductor sales; namely, the ability to provide a 'look ahead' scenario analysis for 2010's global semiconductor sales forecast update as a function of next month's (in this case July's) actual global semiconductor sales estimate.

The specifics of the scenario analysis are presented in the following paragraphs and detailed in the scenario matrix table.

Table 1: Semicon forecast -- Cowan LRA modelSource: Cowan LRA semiconductor sales forecasting model.

In order to illustrate this capability, Cowan has selected a range in possible July 2010 sales. In this particular scenario, a sales range from $20.89 billion to $25.89 billion in increments of $0.5 billion was chosen as listed in the first column of the Table 1.

This estimated range of actual sales is 'centered around' the actual July sales forecast estimate of $23.388 billion as determined by last month's June run of the model. The corresponding July 3MMA (three-month moving average) sales forecast estimate is $24.849 billion.

The overall year 2010 sales forecast estimate for each assumed estimated sales number over the selected range of July actual sales is calculated by the model, and is shown in the second column of the table.

The third column reveals the resulting year-on-year sales growth estimates compared to year 2009's actual sales of $226.3 billion.

The fourth and fifth columns show the corresponding 3MMA, sales estimate and the associated year-on-year sales growth relative to July 2009's 3MMA sales (of $18.423 billion), respectively.

Finally, the sixth column lists the associated Momentum Indicator, MI, which is defined and discussed.

June 2010’s actual semiconductor sales (of $27.153 billion) came in lower (by $1.138 billion) than the model’s last month's June 2010 sales forecast estimate (of $28.291 billion) representing a minus 4 percent delta comparing June 2010's actual sales number (published by the WSTS) to the projected forecast estimate “put forth” by the Cowan LRA forecasting model and reported last month.

This percent delta represents the Cowan LRA Model's MI. See tables 2 and 3 for this indicator’s short-term (last 15 months) and long-term (past 8+ years) historical trend, respectively.

The short-term (15 months) historical trend is given below.
Table 2: Monthly momentum indicator trend over past 15 months (Apr. 2009 through June 2010)Source: Cowan LRA model.

The long term (past 8+ years) historical trend is given below.
Table 3: Long term evolution of monthly momentum indicator -- from Feb. 2002 to June 2010Source: Cowan LRA model.

The MI is defined as the percent difference between the actual sales for a given month -- in this case May 2010’s just published actual global sales of $24.007 billion and the forecasted sales estimate for May 2010, that is, $22.743 billion, which was calculated and published last month.

The MI can be either positive or negative and is a measure of the percent deviation of the actual monthly sales number from the previous month’s prediction derived by the model’s linear regression analysis of the past 26 years of historical, monthly global “sales experience.”

July 2010’s sales forecast estimate is projected to be $23.388 billion.

Therefore, as the table reveals, depending on the actual WSTS to-be-released July 2010 global semi sales number, the forecasted 2010 sales estimate, as determined by the model, could vary between $299.06 billion and $308.12 billion, while the corresponding 2009 => 2010 sales growth estimate could vary between 32.1 percent and 36.1 percent, respectively.

Note: The previously published Cowan LRA Model's 2010 sales forecast update, which was based upon June 2010's actual sales (of $27.153 billion), came in at $303.91 billion corresponding to a sales growth forecast estimate of 34.3 percent as presented early this month.

Using this analysis capability, the model provides a "sensitivity output" of the "expected" 2010 sales forecast (and yr-o-yr forecasted sales growth) as a function of the yet-to-be-published actual July sales number.

Therefore, employing Table 1, one can a-priori "select" a July sales number (in the range shown) and immediately see what the model would predict for a 2010 sales forecast estimate along with its corresponding sales growth expectation in advance of the actual to-be-published final July sales result.

Stay tuned for the WSTS to publish (expected on August 31, 2010) for the actual July 2010 sales number. One can then ascertain the model's latest forecast outlook as abstracted (or extrapolated) from the attached table even before Cowan runs his model and subsequently publishes the updated forecast numbers based upon July's actual sales result.

Table 4: Evolution of various semiconductor market analysts' sales growth forecasts for 2010 (As of 20 August 2010)Source: Cowan LRA model.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Need to look at smart grid standards from an Indian context: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam

First of all, I would like to thank Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems, for sharing his presentation as well as the points he made during a panel discussion yesterday evening on Smart cities and smart grid: opportunities and challenges at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) 2010 in Bangalore.

Need for multi-disciplinary, collaborative innovation
Rajaraman called for the need to innovate, which should be multi-disciplinary, collaborative and fast paced! According to him, smart meter is not relevant for 80 percent of the Indian population as of now.

Further, India needs to look at standards for smart grid from an Indian context, rather than try and apply some smart grid solutions developed elsewhere, as those may not be relevant. There is also a need to customize the testing standards for India. All, quite telling points! Smart grid is a journey, and not an end result.

India specific challenges
Challenges that are mostly India specific are -- one, we don't have the complete solution. While the ingredients exist, the standardized, modular, scalable, open solution don’t exist yet. Next, few off-the-shelf products are available and niche solutions are expensive.

Further, there are an enormous number of stakeholders. There is a need for the concerted effort of utilities, regulators, vendors, technologists, standard bodies, appliance industry, IT industry and consumer group to work together. No one group can do this quickly on their own. And, no one has all the answers!

Many of the required solutions (e.g., smart appliances) don’t yet exist in India, but the incremental cost is low. India also requires the analysis and experimentation in communication technologies and business models.

Smart grid challenges and opportunities
The points made by Venkat Rajaraman are summarized below.

1. Smart grid is truly one area - where you need multi-disciplinary, collaborative, fast paced innovation to happen. It requires the power engineers to work with the embedded engineers, IT/networking engineers, software developers, data mining experts, Web technologists and many other specialists -- to all come together and work in a collaborative way.

2. It requires multiple stakeholders to come together - smart grid experts, technology solution providers, regulatory bodies, utilities, etc. No one can come to the party before and no one can race ahead of others. They all pretty much need to come at the same time. If not, the weak link will slow everyone down. If the utility infrastructure is not ready for time of the day pricing, demand-response etc, implementing them at the consumer end is not of much relevance.

3. In India, the current weak link are the utilities. Almost all of the public utilities are losing money very heavily (see below).

Total commercial losses of utilities:
* 50 Discoms (erstwhile State Electricity Boards) struggle to be financially viable.
* Mainly because of subsidy, power theft and also because of poor efficiency.
* Estimated utility loss at Rs. 40,000 crore in 2010.
* Loss estimated to Increase to Rs. 68,000 crore loss by 2014-15.
* Utilities – No reward for performance and no punishment for non-performance.
* Need regulatory framework to address this.

Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) loss
* India - 32 percent (overall).
* State DISCOM losses – from 18 percent to 62 percent.
* Low billing and collection efficiency (50 percent billed and only 41 percent is collected).
* Power theft (accounts for 1.5 percent of nation's GDP).

Smart grid economy:
* R-APDRP: To bring AT&C losses to 15 percent (17 percent savings).
* Power production in 2010: 160K MW.
* 1 percent of avoided generation - saves 1,600 MW.
* 17 percent savings (32 percent -15 percent) would amount to savings of 27,000 MW.

4. Smart meter is not relevant for 80 percent of the Indian population as of now. The bulk of India lives in one- or two-room houses with very little electricity. India's energy consumption is also less -- 1/3rd of China, 1/10th of Europe, 1/20th of US -- though the consumption trend in India is increasing.

Also, energy awareness is less. We understand rupee/paisa better than watts/volts. Yes, smart metering at the utility level is required and also required for the industrial and high end consumers. However, it is not relevant for the remaining 80 percent of our population for the next several years. As per NDPL, 3 percent of their consumers accounted for 70 percent of the revenue, which pretty much re-inforces that theory.

5. India needs to look at standards for smart grid from an Indian context. Some solution on smart grid developed for US/Europe cannot be applied directly to Indian market as they may not be relevant/applicable.

Su-Kam leads in power back-up industry
For those who are unaware, Su-Kam Power Systems is an Indian MNC in the power back-up industry, with investment from Reliance India Power Fund (a JV between Reliance and Temasek Holdings). It focuses on three verticals – inverters/UPS, batteries and renewables.

The company has six manufacturing units. It has 65 technology and design patents in India and the US, and exports to over 50 countries.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Freescale intros MPC830x PowerQUICC II Pro portfolio

Freescale has introduced the MPC830x PowerQUICC II Pro portfolio of processors along the sidelines of the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) 2010 in Bangalore, India.

Sunil Kaul, product marketing manager, Networking and Multimedia Group, Freescale, said that the MPC830x portfolio extends the e300 core-based PowerQUICC II Pro architecture into cost competitive networking and industrial applications with increased performance per price/power.

Freescale announced the following portfolio:
MPC8308 – 266 to 400 MHz: Performance/price optimized MPC8308 combines 16/32-bit DDR2 memory controller with ECC, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, USB and eSDHC targeting smart metering gateways, wireless media gateways, factory automation and test/measurement equipment. It is in mass production today.

MPC8306/S – 133 to 266 MHz: The MPC8306 integrates QUICC Engine, CAN, USB, SDHC and IEEE 1588 support, which is ideal for industrial control, factory automation and test/measurement equipment.

MPC8306S: It features the QUICC Engine (HDLC/TDM, 10/100) and USB targeting networking equipment such as low-end base station line cards and branch access gateways.

MPC8309 – 266 to 400 MHz: Richly featured with QUICC Engine, CAN, USB, SDHC, PCI and IEEE 1588 support for networking, industrial control, factory automation and test/measurement equipment.

Target applications for the MPC830x include:
Networking/telecom: Low-end line cards, femto base stations, CPEs and WLAN access points.
Smart metering: Smart metering gateways, data concentrators, HAN gateways.
Industrial: Programmable logic controllers, process automation controllers, intelligent I/O, operator interface terminals, drives, bar-code and ID systems, gateways, bridges and hubs.

Kumar Hebbalalu, product development manager, NMG/CSP, Freescale, added that the complete design has been done out of Freescale India.The MPC830x communications processor portfolio was designed at Freescale’s India Design Center using advanced SoC design methodologies and techniques to achieve quick cycle times from product definition to silicon qualification. He added: "We have a large R&D team here. We are leveraging the ODC support we have in India."

Freescale India was responsible for the following:
* SoC design flow - quick cycle time  for platform  integration and easy re-use.
* SoC verification methodology - functional verification of both h/w and microcode.
* Static timing analysis - full back-end implementation.
* DFT structure - high level of testability and fault coverage.
* Validation platform - test/validate the SoC.
* Software enablement - low level and application software.

Freescale's MPC830x evaluation kit
Freescale is also offering the MPC830x evaluation kit containing a single MPC830x carrier card at a $499 and system-on-modules (SOMs) for each one of the MPC830x devices ranging from $269 to $299. It is also offering the MPC8308-RDB reference design board for $299.

Schematics, Gerber files and user guide are provided with the MPC830x evaluation kit. It will come with Linux BSP and drivers. The MQX port will be available mid-August 2010. The MPC8308, MPC8306 and MPC8309 SOMs are all interchangeable with the carrier card.

According to Freescale, the MPC8308 is shipping now in volume production. Samples for the MPC8306/8306S and MPC8309 are now available for limited customers. Volume production for these devices is likely in December 2010 and March 2011, respectively.

Kaul also highlighted Freescale's Product Longevity Program. According to him, the embedded market needs long-term product support. Freescale has a longstanding track record of providing long-term production support for its products. The company offers a formal product longevity program. A broad range of devices are made available for a minimum of 10 or 15 years from the time of launch.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

EDA Tech Forum 2010: Nanoscale regime and social product innovation

This a continuation of my coverage of the Mentor Graphics' EDA Tech Forum 2010.

Here, I shall discuss the main points of the two keynotes by Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India, and Manjunatha Hebbar, VP & Head – Strategic Services, HCL Technologies Ltd – my good friend and fellow board member at the Indian Microelectronics Academy (IMA).

Nanotech for a smart planet
Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India, presented on nanotech for a smarter planet. The motivation for nanotech at IBM has been -- since IT has grown as devices have shrunk. Now, we have reached the nanoscale level. The challenge is: how do we take new technologies to markets?He briefly touched upon IBM's latest generation processor, the Power7, built on 45nm. The next generation Power8 processors are supposed to be built on 22nm/32nm.

He said that physical and chemical properties of materials depend on the size. Hence, it is important to use nano and quantum scale properties for next generation devices. There is this classical scaling reality -- to maintain generational performance gains, supply voltage is not scaled ideally, leading to major power issues.

In the future, innovation, scaling and power will drive performance. Power will play a critical role in developing next-generation products.

On the novel high-K metal gate (HKMG) devices, these gates are already four monolayers thick. We need HKMG since it significantly reduces gate leakage and chips consume lesser power. Also, it allows equivalent oxide thickness. The shrinking of transistor dimensions can continue unhindered.

Dr. Murali highlighted chemical quantization -- which allows changes in device parameters, as well as energy quantization -- which leads to changes in the fundamental current-voltage characteristics of a transistor. A material's resistance can also change in the nanoscale regime.

GIDL or gate-induced drain leakage is quite relevant to low power devices. GIDL leakage currents are becoming prohibitively high. While HKMG has solved the tunnelling problem, the GIDL issue still remains. Rotating the conventional wafer from <110> to <100> reduces the GIDL by an order of magnitude.

Next, what's the alternative to CMOS devices? These could be 3D transistors with better gate control at 15nm and beyond as well as carbon nanotubes. I checked the Web: carbon nanotubes are molecular-scale tubes of graphitic carbon with outstanding properties. They are among the stiffest and strongest fibres known, and have remarkable electronic properties and many other unique characteristics. Excellent!

Finally, how do you pattern all of these devices? Computational lithography enables density scaling. Challenges include pattern optimization tool, code parallelization, HPC and optics.

Spin electronics could be the next evolution -- leading to spintronics devices at nanoscale. Here, IBM's Giant Magnetoresistive Head, which has been a giant leap for IBM Research, comes into play.

Social product innovation
In his keynote, Manjunath Hebbar of HCL stressed that innovation is required at every level across the entire value chain. A compelling alternative would be the social product innovation, or democratization of product innovation.

Benefits of social product innovation are manifold. The prime ones are --
* right product for the right market at the right time at the right price;
* lowest direct cost; sharing of risk and reward;
* real-time on demand access to resources; and
* organic transformation with the market.

He cited the example of Apple's iPhone, which was launched during the peak of recession. The rest is history, as this smartphone went on to change the dymanics of the mobile phone market!

Hebbar highlighted that the society itself has core values of social product innovation. The core purpose -- help everyone have their lives! The focus should be on process innovation and prodct innovation, leading to business innovation.

Today, everyone is on the cloud, mobile, connected and reading everyone. Creative commons is the most accepted license model today. Co-creation is always welcome.

EDA Tech Forum 2010: Delivering the latest in 10X design improvements

I've just returned from Mentor Graphics' EDA Tech Forum 2010, titled: Delivering the latest in 10X design improvements.

The opening keynote by Pravin Madhani, GM, Place and Route Division, Mentor, could have been better -- well, Dr. Walden C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor, had also delivered a similar lecture at this year's VLSID 2010 conference.

However, the other two keynotes -- by Dr. Kota Murali, lead scientist & program manager of nanotech, IBM India, and Manjunath Hebbar, VP & Head - Strategic Services, HCL Technologies Ltd, lived up to their billing.

The photomask industry is between the proverbial hard rock and the hard place. For instance, at 32nm, the mask cost works out to be $2 million today. In his keynote, Madhani said that the manufacturing industry would surely figure out a way to control mask costs.

Even fab costs are pretty high today -- estimated at $50 billion in 2010, that is ~10 percent of the annual market. The global fab industry continues to figure out how to decrease costs. While design costs are projected to grow logarithmically, cost per function will continue to decline long after Moore's Law is obsolete.

So, will we have any use for so many transistors? Down the years, growth in unit volumes has always distinguished the semiconductor industry. The semicon industry has been growing at 13 percent (10-year CAGR), while transistors have grown at 49 percent. These sit very well, as compared to say, computers - 9.3 percent, steel -- 5.3 percent, and automobiles -- 0.1 percent. The 49 percent transistor growth drives the semicon industry.

Madhani said that the note/netbook market seems to have several years of growth ahead. The Apple iPad has also created a new segment. Cell phone adoption has been in high-growth mode in the emerging markets. Smartphones are changing the video dynamics.

So, will applications require 10K more transistors by 2018? And, do we have the necessary design tools? Well, there will likely be a ~10K increase in transistors over the next eight years, going up to 40 billion transistors by 2018. Therefore, the industry will require tools ready now in order to design for 2018.

Four principal areas will require 10X improvements in design methodologies — system level design, verification, embedded software development, and back-end physical design and test. A 10X increase in the number of transistors will also require 1000X increase in verification.

In summary, reduction in costs per functionality will continue on a predictable learning curve long after Moore's law is obsolete. The industry will also witness ~10X increase in transistors over the next eight years, leading up to 40 billion transistors by 2018.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Global semicon market set for slowdown due to deteriorating business climate!

Now that's going to be very interesting, should it happen! After close to two quarters of robust growth experienced by the global semiconductor industry, a slowdown was bound to be around the corner!!

I was going through a report sent out by Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA, of the same title today, and decided to get his thoughts.

Deteriorating business climate
According to The Information Network, The business climate for the semiconductor industry is deteriorating, as per its upcoming report, titled, “Hot ICs: Market Analysis and Forecast of the Top 15 IC Sectors”.

As per the report, along with fellow DRAM manufacturers Samsung, Hynix, Elpida, Micron, etc., will suffer from slowing sales of electronic gadgets and PCs. In the CPU sector, the slowdown in PC sales will affect Intel and AMD. Foundries such as TSMC and UMC will also feel the impact.

As sales drop in electronic gadgets, the most pronounced affect will be in the DRAM sector, where sales grew 135 percent in Q2 2010 compared to Q2 2009. The drop in semiconductor sales will usher in a corresponding drop in semiconductor equipment and materials sales. The front-end market will suffer pushouts and the lithography sector will be impacted most, where sales of $35 million immersion DUV tools have flooded the market of late.

Slowdown likely in world economies
I quizzed Dr. Castellano as to why he felt that the semicon business climate is deteriorating.

He said: The semiconductor industry is directly correlated with the economies of the world, and there is a direct correlation with semiconductor sales and worldwide GDP. Our leading indicators (LI) point to a slowdown in the world economies.

"As these proprietary LIs are correlated with semiconductor revenues, we will se a slowdown in the next few months. We are already seeing signs of a slowdown in the PC and LED indistriies. Numerous public companies have given forward guidance that the next quarter will show some weakness."

Given the good two quarters this year, how certain is The Information Netwok that the semicon market is now set for slowdown? Dr. Castellano cited similar reasons as above, adding: "Our LIs have an extremely accurate correlation with transition times. We have developed these LIs over the past 15 years."

Impact on foundries and silicon wafers
So, how will all of this impact the foundries? Dr. Castellano said: "Foundries make their money from two sources: sales of ICs from fabless IC companies and sales of ICs from IDMs who do not have sufficient in-house capacity or sufficient technology capabilities for newer ICs. The macroeconomic effect will stymie sales for both revenue sources."

Does The Information Network also foresee an overcapacity situation in silicon wafers during 2011?

"No. We are forecasting 8.4 BSI (billion square inches) of Si wafers in 2010, which is up slightly from the 8.2 BSI in 2008. So, the Si manufacturers have the capacity already on hand. Semiconductor wafers will face competition from solar wafer consumption, which will double in 2010, but polysilicon is plentiful, and the two sectors, for the most part, use different crystal growing methods," he added.

In another of its reports, The Information Network had mentioned that semiconductor equipment pushouts are imminent. What are the reasons?

Dr. Castellano explained: "Already, sales in the equipment industry have approached triple digit growth. As semiconductor sales drop, there will not be the need for this equipment. Tools on order will be pushed out to 2011 so that the semiconductor manufacturers will not need to pay for equipment delivered, but not installed."

2010 similar to 2000 -- what can the industry learn!
I was quite intrigued to read a paragraph in The Information Network's report, which says: "Year 2010 is becoming very reminiscent of 2000, where poor inventory control, fear of IC shortages, and concern over long waiting times for leading-edge equipment spelled disaster, and we ended the year with $10 billion in excess IC capacity and a shattered equipment industry that took years to claw out of the red and has never fully recovered until this year."

Why has the report likened 2010 to 2000? Also, what should the industry do to not repeat/learn from past mistakes?

Dr. Castellano advised: "Stop listening to forecasts that call for hyper growth (semiconductor manufacturers will tend to order equipment to get on a waiting list even if they don't necessarily agree with the forecast), and stop listening to forecasts discussing shortages of a particular IC.

"Market researchers tend to try to increase exposure by coming out with press releases without understanding the real fundamentals of the macroeconomic supply side indicators that directly affect the market. The irony is that these forecasts come out in tenths of a percent as if the forecast was cut in stone."

Captivating stuff! Wonder why those forecasts for the semiconductor and equipment industries seem to get bigger with each monthly announcement.

As The Information Network's report concludes, "the fragile economies of the Western world do not warrant such growth."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tejas celebrates 10 years with new products for 3G/BWA backhaul

First, I must thank my friend, Arnob Roy, president-engineering, Tejas Networks, for sharing the details of Tejas celebrating 10 years of telecom product innovation in India. Tejas has been leading the Indian high-tech industry evolution for the last decade. It has played a significant role as bandwidth creators for telecom services in India.

I still remember feeling quite thrilled — back in early 2001 — when I first passed by Tejas’ office in Bangalore, even more so as I’d just met Sycamore Networks at the ITU Telecom Asia 2000 (in early December) in Hong Kong, when I was Editor, Global Sources Telecom Products.

Last week, Tejas completed a decade of telecom product innovation, and celebrated the event by announcing new products for 3G/BWA backhaul, besides having its chairman, Dr. Gururaj (Desh) Deshpande, here for the event.

In case you are unaware, last month, Dr. Deshpande was appointed as the co-chairman of US President Obama’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He will support President Obama’s innovation strategy by helping to develop policies that foster entrepreneurship, create jobs, and drive economic growth. He is a serial entrepreneur, and founder or mentor to many for-profit companies, such as Cascade, Sycamore, Tejas, Airvana, and so on.

Tejas in India
Outlining Tejas’ success in India, Sanjay Nayak, CEO and MD, said the company had reached the top-10 spot in its segment globally, besides being a leader in India-bandwidth enablers across all operators. Tejas has also achieved global success — it is used by operators in networks in over 50 countries, besides being the OEM product provider to many global equipment majors.

Tejas has also been developing technology leading products such as those enabling 3G/BWA transition. For those interested, the company has launched 10+ products from India over last five years. Also, 192,000 Tejas’ systems are lighting over 5 million km of optical fiber. The company has also seen profitable growth, wtih five-year CAGR of >65 percent (revenues of Rs. 620 crore). It has 730 employees (in seven countries) with over 450 in R&D.

Tejas’ contribution to telecom growth in India has been significant. It has proved that India can build world-class product companies. Over 75 percent of fiber towers in India use Tejas’ multiplexers. The company is a leading Ethernet over SDH provider – 562,000 Ethernet ports shipped last year alone. It is also enabling low-cost mobile services – 20 percent annualized drop in bandwidth prices since 2000. Finally, Tejas has also won the world’s largest tender for SDH/optical equipment.

Portfolio of packet optical products
Now, Tejas is playing a pivotal role in 3G/BWA by launching a portfolio of packet optical products. It has enhanced its 3G and BWA backhaul solution by launching the packet optical transport platform (POTP) family of products for 3G and BWA backhaul.

The products are based on packet optical transport technology — an integration of optical transport and packet switching technologies. Said to be future proof, they have been architected for seamless migration from 100 percent voice to 100 percent data (and anything in between) — saves on repeated capex investments. They are also suitable for migrating networks that currently support 2.5G and are rolling out 3G services. Finally, the products offer reduced opex, and are much easier to manage and for offering new services.

The TJ2K family for 3G and BWA backhaul is for pure-packet green-field BWA networks. It offers lowest per-bit transport cost and scalable to terabit capacity. Other benefits are: sophisticated data handling with 50ms protection against faults, continuous service monitoring for minimizing opex and seamless integration with existing IP/MPLS networks.

Evolving as thought leader
Dr. Gururaj (Desh) Deshpande, chairman, said: “Propelled by its world class talent, I am thrilled, but not surprised to see Tejas Networks achieve this tremendous success. Over the last decade, Tejas has evolved as a thought leader, addressing the most complex needs of the telecom operators today. Tejas has also established that a product company based in India can serve the highly competitive domestic market and at the same time produce high quality, leading-edge products relevant to the rest of the world.”

“I am confident that with the right impetus, India can produce several other product companies like Tejas Networks and establish a $100 Billion high-tech product industry over the next decade.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Market opportunities for Indo-UK collaboration in semicon, electronics, green energy

If you can recall, the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has been steadfastly pursuing a strategic initiative in India, with the intention to be a part of the growing electronics market in India.

In fact, UKTI partnered the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) during the ISA Vision Summit 2010 to explore the potential of how the UK and Indian semiconductor industries can work together to create powerful solutions for customers in India, the UK and the rest of the world.The UKTI, along with the ISA, organized an industry meeting with Dave Gorshkov, sector champion for the UK government on ICT, electronics and semiconductors, UKTI, to discuss market opportunities for Indo-UK collaboration.

Areas of opportunities
According to Gorshkov, some of the UK areas of opportunities include central and regional government support, G-Cloud, Digital Britain and 21CN (BT's 21st Century Network program), green data centers and smart grid opportunities, intelligent transport (ITS), congestion charging, CCTVs, etc.

There are several opportunities as well in the upcoming international sports events such as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the 2014 Commenwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England and Cardiff (Wales), and the 2018 World Cup Soccer (UK has bid for this).

Now, all of these sporting events indeed present a host of opportunities, not only for India, but for other interested nations as well.

Gorshkov highlighted that the UK is the growing ground for consumer electronics. For instance, it has a high mobile broadband penetration, with over 23.3 percent in 3G. Displays, especially flat panel displays (FPDs), have been taken up most rapidly in the UK. UK technologists, such as CDT (Cambridge Display Technology), have key expertise in next generation low power display technologies.

Digital TV is yet another booming area in the UK, with over 80 percent penetration. Consumers are already adopting HDTV and/or PVR STBs from Amstrad and Pace. In design, he added that UK based designers are playing a key role in helping the world's consumer electronics players in creating world class products.

The UK government is also investing in technologies for government services. It is investing around £17 billion per annum in technologies. The UK government has plans to establish a private cloud computing infrastructure called G-Cloud, which will include IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions. It is investing £3.2 billion over the next five years.

The Digital Britain Report is the Government’s strategic vision for ensuring that the UK is at the leading edge of the global digital economy. Yet another initiative, the 21CN, is BT’s global, software driven customer network that introduces a new, simpler portfolio of next generation services. It is the foundation for BT’s transformation into a global, software-driven communications business. The UK has also undertaken several initiatives in developing the infrastructure for green data centers.

Besides semiconductors and electronics, several opportunities also exist in green energy. For instance, smart metering, electric vehicles and LEDs.

On electric vehicles, Gorshkov raised some queries, pointing at opportunities: "Where is the energy going to come from? How is that load going to be controlled?" On LEDs, he noted that the output was not yet as good as incandescent lamps. "The bottleneck is its power supply, which is not designed to last 10 years!"

The UK is also among, if not probably, the world's largest CCTV and video analytics market. There is an installed base of 4.3 million cameras growing to 9-10 million in the next five to ten years. Approximately £4.5 billion pa has been spent on CCTV and surveillance systems/services.

Eight market opps for ICT players
Gorshkov also listed eight other opportunities for ICT players -- areas of possible collaboration between India and the UK.

These are: crowd protection, digital signage, integrated home electronics, technologies for financial businesses, technologies for healthcare, information security, next generation broadband access, and next generation IT platform and services.

He concluded, "UK companies and universities are willing to either work with international companies or partner with them." Gorshkov cited examples of Silicon Glen -- the high tech sector of Scotland, the Welsh cluster, and Britain's M4 corridor.

So, there you have it! There are opportunities galore for interested Indian companies to work with UK technology companies and universities!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Philips focuses on how interoperability, content sharing drive CE devices!

Recently, I had the pleasure of interacting with Nataraj Kumar, director, Consumer Lifestyle, Philips Innovation Campus, where we discussed things such as Philips technology in interoperability, and the role of this technology in the Philips development ecosystem.

Content sharing platform and consumer behaviour are two key areas of focus for the Dutch electronics giant, Philips. Connectivity and interoperability, as well as certification play key roles in the overall make up of CE devices as well. To ensure that all devices work smoothly, consumer electronics manufacturers have to be very careful regarding testing and interoperability issues.

Last month, Philips had organized the Philips Connectivity Plugfest-02 at the Philips Innovation Campus in Bangalore, India. It attracted 31 companies who showcased 90 devices focusing on connectivity technologies -- HDMI, USB, Bluetooth and DLNA. As you can see, the focus was on content sharing over multiple devices -- all of whom need to operate and function in unison -- and that's where the interoperability factor comes in!

In fact, more than 70 percent of the companies participating in the Plugfest-02 focused on HDMI. According to Nataraj Kumar, there were 42 products related to HDMI, while there were 23 products focused on USB. Bluetooth had 17 products and there were four related to DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance).

In contrast, the Philips Connectivity Plugfest-01, held in June 2009 at the same venue, had attracted 15 companies who showcased 40 devices focusing on technologies such as Bluetooth, HDMI and DLNA!

Strong current focus on HDMI
Obviously, high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) has been gaining in importance. Now, with HDMI 1.4 doing the rounds, the interest naturally has to be on the higher side. HDMI 1.4a, released on March 4, 2010, and adds two additional mandatory 3D formats for broadcast content, which was deferred with HDMI 1.4 in order to see the direction of the 3D broadcast market. It has also defined the mandatory 3D formats for broadcast, game, and movie content, respectively.

As per Nataraj Kumar, HDMI 1.4 supports the audio return channel, provides 3D support, as well as an HDMI Ethernet channel.

Elaborating on the Plugfest-02, he said that there were a range of CE devices, such as TV sets, graphic cards, active HDMI cables, control boxes, products that get into DVD players, etc.

He said: "We made a matrix of every company, and presented each company 45 minutes. Within that period, each company had to pick up its product -- or source -- and carry it to a synchronization device, which receives and displays data. Then they evaluated a variety of test cases that were already pre-defined by Philips."

Most of the participating companies at Plugfest-02 were able to test successfully for interoperability and perhaps, also identify problems that could be later resolved.

Just how well is Philips geared up for HDMI is visible from its well equipped Interoperability and Certification Center (ICC) lab (sorry folks, no pictures).

The Philips' ICC lab has the facility to handle HDMI 1.4 compliance testing. It also offers HDMI 1,4 CEC compliance testing, HDMI HDCP compliance testing, and HDMI and HDMI CEC interoperability testing.

The ICC lab offers interoperability testing with CE devices for Bluetooth, as well as Bluetooth profile testing. For USB, it offers USB interoperability testing, while for DLNA, it offers DLNA interoperability testing for 1.0 and 1.5, respectively. The lab offers RF4CE (radio frequency for consumer electronics) interoperability testing as well.

It must be mentioned here that the Bangalore ICC lab is a unique center within Philips. It ensures the certification and interoperability of Philips' products before their commercial launch. This center is already involved in the design and development of several products.

Now, I couldn't find any company showcasing WHDI (wireless home digital interface) capabilities. Perhaps, the technology is still very new! And what about Philips' interest in this technology?

On inquiring, Nataraj Kumar said that Philips is exploring opportunities as to what the WHDI standard can do for home entertainment. Should Philips participate in this specification, it would possibly look into WHDI's standardization process as well.

Internet and 3D TVs
Internet TVs are currently top of the charts. So, what's Philips doing in this area? According to Nataraj Kumar, the company had earlier launched three to four models -- the Streamium range -- featuring Internet radios. Interesting!

The last time I looked at and used an Internet radio was sometime during in the middle of 2006, while visiting a supplier located somewhere near Diamond Hill in Hong Kong. At that point in time, Internet radios were supposed to be the next big thing. Well, let's see what happens from here on!

Coming back to Philips' Web or Internet TVs, the company had launched a TV in Europe using video content playback, featuring YouTube, Interent portals, etc., called Net TV. All of the services for the Net TV are tested for compliance at Philips' Bangalore lab.

3D TV is another hot area today wtihin consumer electronics, although I am not quite sure of its current success rate. Perhaps, it is too early! As per Nataraj Kumar, HDMI also supports a lot of verification work for 3D TVs. Philips' ICC lab performs 3D TV testing as well.

Finally, it is said that 3G has the potential to become big in India. When? Let me leave you with an anecdote!

In the middle of 1998, Ericsson had invited me to its facility in Kista, a district of Stockholm municipality in Sweden. The sessions were largely on W-CDMA. In fact, I sat inside a moving van testing Internet over W-CDMA! This was 12 years ago! Today, it is Q3 2010. Where is 3G in India?

Monday, August 9, 2010

This downturn was NOT a classic semiconductor bust and boom, ignore industry fundamentals at your peril: Future Horizons

According to Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, May’s semiconductor sales were up 2.6 percent on April, 3.6 percent for ICs, continuing the steady sequential industry growth that started in January 2009, 17 months ago.

May’s results mean Q2-10 will show at least 8.3 percent quarterly growth over Q1-10, increasing the full year growth forecast to 36 percent. Given last year’s growth was minus 9 percent, mathematically this is a classic industry cycle. It is NOT, he insists!

At this point in the ‘recovery’, it is much more important to look at sequential and quarterly growth rates rather that the 12:12 rates, given the high double digit rates they show are just as misleading and irrelevant as the high double digit negative rates from this time last year. The reality is that they net each other out, thereby highlighting the real nature of the current cycle. This downturn was a pause, the recovery a restart, it was NOT a classic semiconductor bust and boom.

Future Horizons has been telling everyone very publicly that the industry recovery started in March 2009, first in the April 2009 edition of its Global Semiconductor Report, substantiated by a very long and detailed analysis at the Geneva IEF2009 Forum last October.

The recovery, together with ever-increasing substantiating data, has been a recurring theme in our Global Semiconductor Monthly Report ever since, as well as at the Dresden IEF2010 event in May 2010.

Penn added: "At the same time I have been warning that industry was cutting back existing capacity far too much and too fast whilst simultaneously failing to invest in net new capacity. Our clear message always was that these two factors were a recipe for disaster. The disasters are now starting to happen.

"While we obviously do not expect firms to run their business based on what we say, if the market recovery really has taken firms by surprise, executives from the top down either failed to recognise the significance of the data we were drawing their attention to over the past 15 months or they simply made the decision to ignore it. Ignore the industry fundamentals at your peril."

Recovery not quite classic!
Future Horizons clearly states that this recovery is not a classic recovery. On being quizzed further, Penn said, "it was a dead stop and restart, just like hitting the pause button on your remote, rather than a crash and rebuild." This is perhaps the same reason why the recession is now being termed as a market interruption.

Future Horizons has also been warning that industry was cutting back on the existing capacity far too much and too fast, while simultaneously failing to invest in net new capacity. Is the semicon industry still on this path? Penn added: "Spending has now resumed (since Jan. 2010) and cut backs have stopped, but there's a one-year time delay before these will start to impact. Why? Lack of industry confidence, driven too much by short-term financial performance, risk averse management and shareholders, lemming factor, etc."

The long-term ramifications, should the industry fail to invest in net new capacity, are loss of sales and market position/leadership to those firms who did invest (e.g. TSMC, Samsung).

Well, it seems the global semiconductor industry has not learned enough from the previous recessions!

There is also a Q2-Q3-2010 fab famine to work through. Elaborating, Penn said that it takes about nine to 12 months from deciding to add new capacity to actually getting the new capacity on line.

Future Horizons also foresaw component shortage. Now, there are reports of complaints regarding IC component shortages. At this stage, Penn advised the industry players to manage their businesses properly, which requires judgement, as opposed to simply reacting to problems. "Right now, the tail is wagging the dog," he added.

Expect 14 percent growth in 2011!
Finally, what is the overall forecast for the global semicon industry in 2010 and what's the forecast looking like for 2011? Penn said: "It is 14 percent (down from 28 percent), purely because 2010 is now 36 percent (up from 22 percent), the combined result is the same."

The reasons are explained more fully in the Executive Summary of the Future Horizons' report.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Semicon industry sales have peaked, growth to stabilize for rest of 2010 at 32-34 percent: Cowan's LRA model

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

Here is the latest update to the Cowan LRA model-derived forecast results reflecting the just released “actual” June sales.

The actual June 2010 global semiconductor sales announced by the WSTS came in at $27.153 billion which is:
* 38.6 percent higher than 2009's June sales of $19.586 billion;
* Up 13.1 percent from last month's (non-revised) sales of $24.007 billion;
* And lower (by $1.138 billion, or down 4.0 percent) compared to last month's (May's projection) sales forecast estimate for June, that is, $28.291 billion.

It should be highlighted that June's sales report exhibited relatively large upward revisions for each of the months of Jan., Feb., Mar. and Apr., -- resulting in a cumulative upward revision of $0.888 billion to the June year-to-date global semiconductor sales number (that is, $144.647 billion) as detailed in Table 1 below.

Table 1Source: WSTS (Aug 2010).

As shown in Table 1 above, the WSTS reported upward revisions in the respective sales numbers for each of the first four months of 2010 of roughly the same magnitude (average per each month of $0.222 billion) with an overall total approximating $0.9 billion. Also notice (see details in Table 2 below) that the June-reported 1Q10 sales number was likewise revised upward by $0.645 billion corresponding to an upward revision of 0.93 percent.

Table 2Source: Reported by WSTS.

Therefore, taking into account these upward revisions, the latest monthly update to 2010's global semiconductor sales forecast estimate as determined by the Cowan LRA forecasting model becomes $303.914 billion corresponding to a projected 2010 year-over-year sales growth forecast estimate of 34.3 percent.

These latest forecasted 2010 sales and sales growth estimates decreased very slightly from last month's reported sales and sales growth forecast estimates of $304.696 and 34.6 percent, respectively. Thus, the full complement of the latest, updated sales and sales growth forecast estimates for 3Q, 4Q and 2010 are detailed in Table 3 below, along with 1Q's updated and 2Q's actual reported sales numbers.

Table 3Sources: WSTS (June HBR report) and Cowan LRA Forecasting Model (August 2010).

Because of the relatively large monthly revisions published in June's WSTS sales report (discussed above), Table 4 provides the previous month's forecast estimates in order to facilitate a comparison between the latest (shown above) and the previous month's results (see below):

Table 4Sources: WSTS (May HBR report) and Cowan LRA Forecasting Model (July 2010).

Since the latest sales forecast estimates for 3Q, 4Q and 2010 are approximately the same in comparing the two back-to-back monthly forecast results (per the two tables above), one can infer that semiconductor industry sales have peaked and sales growth will stabilize for the rest of this year at approximately 32-34 percent. This is also reconfirmed by the Cowan LRA Model's Momentum Indicator for June going slightly negative (at -4 percent).

Additionally, next month's (July 2010) global semiconductor sales forecast estimate is projected to be $23.388 billion, which would "translate" to a July 3MMA sales forecast estimate of $24.849 billion assuming no (or very minor) revisions in May and June sales numbers as part of the WSTS's July sales report.

The 3MMA sales is normally published by the SIA (using WSTS sales numbers) as part of its monthly press release to characterize the S/C industry's monthly sales and sales growth posture. The SIA's July 3MMA is scheduled to be announced on Tuesday, August. 31, 2010.

Cowan has also presented a chart, representing the evolution of various semiconductor market analysts' sales growth forecasts for 2010 (as of August 3, 2010).

Semiconductor market analysts' sales growth forecasts for 2010 (as of August 3, 2010).Source: Cowan's LRA model.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TÜV Rheinland opens South Asia's largest PV testing lab in Bangalore

TÜV Rheinland has opened India's first and South Asia's largest photovoltaics (PV) testing lab in Bangalore, India. Just last week, Deepak Gupta, secretary, MNRE, had mentioned during his valedictory address at Solarcon India 2010 that an international lab was due to start a facility in Bangalore, and here you go! But first, a bit on TÜV Rheinland.

TÜV Rheinland has the expertise of testing PV modules, having been in the solar business for over 30 years. It has a market share over 70 percent, and has seven PV labs spread across Germany, China, Taiwan, the US, Japan (two labs), and now, India. Its testing focus is on safety, efficiency, quality and durability of solar systems.

According to the TÜV Rheinland official, the total global investment in solar PV reached a record $40 billion in 2009. The PV cells production capacity is likely to exceed 33GW in 2011. Most importantly, 78 percent of manufacturers will be located in Asia. Further, the installed capacity of global solar panels is likely to reach 33.4 thousand MW by 2015.

Business prospects in India
TÜV Rheinland obviously has been closely following the Indian solar PV market. India boasts of over 250 clear sunny days in year. Also, India's solar potential is estimated at 600 TW per year. The PV industry output between 2002 and 2007 was said to 335 MW, with an export rate of 75 percent.

Coming to well known Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM), the Indian solar PV industry is estimated to grow to 100 GW by 2030. Also, 5 percent of the total power plant area will be used for PV power plants. The Indian government is promoting roof top solar generation.

TÜV Rheinland's test laboratory in Electronics City, Bangalore, is spread over an area of 20,000sqft., including 5,000sqft. outside exposure testing area. It has invested close to $3 million in setting up the lab, thereby indicating a very deep interest in developing the Indian solar PV industry.

This PV test lab in Bangalore also happens to be India’s first and South Asia’s largest such facility. It has some unique facilities such as five climatic chambers and two sun simulators. With the inauguration of this facility, the availability of local testing and certification will now plug a key gap for the Indian industry.

TÜV Rheinland is offering the following PV services in India – PV module testing, PV module certification, PV power plants, conventional power projects, welding and non-destructive testing, installations, material tests and third party inspections. For the statistical minded, 70 percent of PV modules go through one of the TUV Rheinland labs worldwide.

The group’s global management is well focused on the Indian market and this PV test lab is a reiteration of an ongoing, long-term commitment to India.

Friedrich Hecker, CEO, TÜV Rheinland AG, said: “With the ambitious Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission being operationalized, India is poised to take a huge leap in solar/PV. Module manufacturing, a key component of the chain, is largely domestically manufactured and offers a great export potential as well.

“The setting up of the PV lab by us today in Bangalore not only addresses the lack of such a facility in India but actually enables Indian module manufacturers to eye markets beyond India. India has always been a key strategic market for the group and all our different business units and this marks another step forward in that commitment.”

Andreas Höfer, chief regional officer, TÜV Rheinland (India, Middle East and Africa), said: "With abundant sunshine and high quality of radiation levels combined with focus on both grid and off grid applications, there is every possibility that India will be the market to watch out for in the region. We see a lot of overseas players investing here and setting up facilities or licensing technology for local players to manufacture with. In that way, both our entry and the setting up of this lab is timed well.”

Enrico Rühle, MD, TÜV Rheinland India, added: ”The Indian PV lab will be tightly interlinked to the other six laboratories across the world and will employ over 200 experts across functions. The lab which has facilities unheard of in the region like climate chambers and sun simulators will reduce the time for testing for Indian manufacturers."

TÜV Rheinland India is part of TÜV Rheinland Group, a leading provider of technical services worldwide.

Focus on IMEA
TÜV Rheinland is especially focused on the IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa) region. There is a huge potential for solar thermal Power Plants in the Middle East. The Clean Technology Fund (CTF) has approved the financing of $750 million to mobilize an additional $4.85 billion from other sources, to accelerate global deployment of concentrated solar power (CSP), by investing in the CSP programs of five countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Next, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are entering the PV industry as well. Sri Lanka is coming up with its power plant requirements. TÜV Rheinland is trying to collaborate with the Sri Lankan government. Also, a PV power plant conference will be held in Bangladesh next month.

Founded in 1872 and headquartered in Cologne, the Group employs over 14,000 people in 490 locations in 61 countries and generates annual revenues of € 1.2 billion. The Group’s mission and guiding principle is to achieve sustained development of safety and quality in order to meet the challenges arising from the interaction between man, technology and the environment.

TÜV Rheinland has a vision of becoming the preferred supplier of services that assist makers, sellers, buyers & consumers to enjoy the benefits of technology while reducing risks to generally accepted levels. Its mission and guiding principle is to achieve sustained development of safety and quality in order to meet the challenges arising from the interaction between man, technology and the environment.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pressing need to address solar project financing in India: D. Majumdar, IREDA

During a session on Financing solar PV in India, at Solarcon India 2010 in Hyderabad, Debashish Majumdar, chairman and managing director, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd (IREDA), said that India is facing a major problem -- that is, how do we get the financial community to seriously look at solar!

He touched upon the three schemes that Dr. Bharat Bhargava of the MNRE had spoken about earlier. These are -- NVVN scheme -- typically 5MW/100MW schemes, rooftop component, and off-grid component.

Majumdar said that each one of these schemes has to be looked at differently. Two things will be important -- generation and tariff. Tariff is derisked. All are going to look at the prediction and the forecast of generation. You will need good data to forecast for your project.

Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are signed in terms of MW. A change in mindset is also required. There are areas we oftem neglect. For example, the quality of water at site can create a lot of distortion in forecast generation. Or, how do you decide one module is better than the other?

On the 100MW scheme on power projects, Majumdar added that the entire history of what the distribution center becomes at downtime will be important. On the off grid component, Majumdar said that today, it looks small. However, it has the largest significance. Its impact is tremendous.

"Solar financing is tough. However, we will try to make it easier and show the financial institutions that it is possible to de-risk projects. We will get the lending community to activate itself," he added.

Earlier, Bharat Bhargava of the MNRE, mentioned that the JN-NSM offers opportunities to invest in grid power projects, off grid projects and manufacturing. He added that the enabling polciy and framework is in place. Aggressive R&D and local manufacturing are necessary to achieve grid parity. He also outlined the R&D strategy. It includes:

* Research at academic/research institures on materials and devices.
* Applied research on the existing processes and developing new technologies.
* Development of CoEs on different aspects of solar energy.
* International collaborations.

Bhargava also mentioned the HRD strategy. It includes:

* Develop specialized curriculum for teaching solar energy at B.Tech, M.Tech and IIT levels.
* Announce fellowship for education and research.
* Provide training in grid and off-grid power projects.
* International training via bilatera programs.
* testing and training institute.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

India has bright future in solar PV and other RE: Stan Meyers, SEMI

According to Stanley T. Myers, president and CEO, SEMI: "India has a bright future in solar PV and other renewable energies. India should also acquire and develop the best research." He was speaking at the Solarcon India 2010 in Hyderabad, during a media interaction.

"The NSM is the change in India. You try to look for simplicity, see what's going on, and speed. We hope that happens in India."(L-R) Sathya Prasad, president, SEMI India, Stanley T. Myers, president and CEO, SEMI, and Daniel D. Martin, executive VP, PV Group, SEMI, at SOLARCON India 2010, Hyderabad.

Meyers added: "We see SEMI playing the role as a 'connector' in markets where technologies are emerging. Two things need to happen in emerging technologies as well as regions. One, there has to be a roadmap -- clear and defined. Two, there has to be standards development. SEMI is already playing a key role in the standards for PV manufacturing equipment and materials. It will extend that activity into India as well.

"Our experience in standards in semiconductors has shown that standards results in cost reduction and the net benefit of cost savings is passed on not only to the consumer, but this also allows the savings to be ploughed back into R&D by the industry."

Phase 1 of NSM critical for success
Meyers said that phase I of the JN-NSM is extremely important for India as it is in now in the execution level.

He added: "Significant accomplishments made in this phase may set the parameters of Phase II of the NSM. SEMI will work with the PV industry in India in the execution of NSM and will collaboratively work with the regional associations/industry members and other stakeholder to help achieve the goals of NSM.

"EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) and industry standards are two aspects SEMI has always been focusing on. We look forward to the opportunity to do the same in India."

Since inception in 2008, the SEMI PV Group has a combined membership of about 500 companies currently and has aggressive plans to support the significant opportunity that would help India to generate clean and non-conventional sources of energy supply.

NSM an aggressive policy
Daniel D. Martin, executive VP, PV Group (a Special Interest Group within SEMI), said that as a 'connector', SEMI will play the role in terms of bringing together all the stakeholders within the PV ecosystem. "The NSM is an aggressive policy. It is extremely important that phase I is executed well. It would lay the foundation to accomplish phase 2."

He added: "Many roadmap activities are being supported by SEMI. Roadmaps sets the areas very clearly where companies can compete and and standardize to reduce costs." SEMI will work toward activities that would help reduce the costs involved in production in the manufacturing supply chain.

Martin stressed that India indeed has a bright future in solar, thermal and renewable energy. The focus areas SEMI would look into would be R&D, and stable and quality technology development. Investments should be pumped into R&D for developing breakthrough innovations.

He said that through networking platforms like SOLARCON India, SEMI will try to bring the community together in terms of market development, finance, policies, technologies and business goals. The SEMI/PV Group's mission is to work toward generating 3 percent of the global energy supply by 2020 through solar.

Global PV market overview
Martin also touched upon the global PV market. The global PV market has experienced rapid growth in recent years, growing at an impressive CAGR of 44 percent from 2000 to 2009.

Even though the global PV industry had encountered unprecedented challenges in 2009, the total new installations for the year reached 7.3GW, a growth of 24 percent from year 2008. Worldwide cumulative installation has passed the 22GW mark.

Looking at the regional distribution of global PV market and the new installations in 2009, Europe remains the key marketplace for PV in 2009 with over 70 percent of global demand.

Looking at the cumulative installations during 2009, again, Europe has the largest installed base. Over 80 percent of the global cumulative installations are concentrated in the top five PV markets. While strong market penetration will continue in these leading markets, emerging markets will play a bigger role in the coming years.

He also presented a snapshot of the global PV market share by technology -- multicrystalline silicon (48 percent), monocrystalline silicon (32 percent), CdTe (10 percent), amorphous silicon (7 percent), CI(G)S/others (2 percent), ribbon-sheet crystalline silicon (1 percent).

In 2009, ASPs declined sharply due to credit crisis and macro environment. Steep price falls and strong returns stimulated market growth in the second half of 2009. In polysilicon, several new suppliers have come up, especially in China.

Martin added that over a period of 15 years or so, PV solar could go on to become the lowest cost energy source. "There is a great future for solar PV and India can be at the heart of it," he concluded.

Policy to drive PV market
Discussing the role of feed-in-tariffs (FIT) and the impact of the policy on PV market and growth, Sathya Prasad, president, SEMI India, said that scope of the policy module in India will drive the PV market in phase I.

Policy drives the market! According to SEMI, over 80 percent of the 2008 PV demand was from FIT supported markets. He cited Germany's example, where the German FIT boosted nvestments in renewable energy. FIT is one of the most effective ways of driving policy.

SEMI had conducted an in-depth study based on a survey of the policies of 25 countries. This experience will help in bringing out the most important policy mechanism suitable to India.

A PV policy should have some guiding principles. It should be sufficient to drive predictable demand. The policy itself should be stable and predictable, as well as transparent and streamlined. Besides being accessible, it should be programmed to sunset.

Similarly, the feed-in-tariff (FIT) best practices include technology differentiation, generation cost based rates, purchase and interconnection requirements, fixed price and long term payment, and predictable decline/ sun-setting.

Stability, accessibility and interconnectivity among the energy developers to the PV grid will also determine developments that would take place in phase I. The study's conclusion has been that the design of National Solar Mission conforms to the best practices of FIT and it provides a strong framework for the next step of implementation.