Top chipmakers ignore India's semiconductor factory subsidies

Maybe they've been spooked by new government scheme to expose VPN users' IP addresses?

India has revealed the identities of companies that have applied to build semiconductor manufacturing facilities on its soil under a $10 billion subsidy scheme – and none are substantial chipmakers.

As The Register reported last week, a consortium of Taiwan's Foxconn and Indian firm Vedanta committed to build a plant under the scheme, despite neither company having any previous experience in the field. Now India's government has announced another two bidders: Singapore's IGSS Ventures and an outfit called ISMC.

IGSS operates an eight-inch CMOS foundry through its CompoundTek brand, which focuses on silicon photonics. ISMC is backed by a company called Next Orbit Ventures, and already had plans to build a fab in India.

The government says the three applications it has received will build product on processes ranging from 28nm to 65nm, and have collective output of 120,00 wafers each month.

That's not state of the art and it's not high volume. Leading players like Intel, Samsung, and TSMC make their most advanced products at 10nm or below, while global semiconductor 200mm wafer capacity currently exceeds 6.6 million a month. Even if all of India's investments come off, it will add around two per cent to global current capacity – a decent entry to the global market from a standing start. But the 28nm kit India hopes to make is one of the few markets currently not experiencing product shortages. And 120,000 wafers a month is not a big addition to supply by current standards: Intel already has more than a million wafers a month of new capacity either under construction or on the drawing board. Samsung, TSMC, and others have also revealed plans to add capacity. By the time India's efforts come online, they may be less significant.

That three companies applied for the scheme does, however, represent a win for India. The nation's semiconductor subsidy scheme aimed to secure two fabs, and three are in prospect. The scheme also sought two display fabs, and has met that goal with Vedanta and Elest both applying for funding under the scheme.

Too many secrets

Meanwhile, India has sought expertise to build another and more contentious technology: software to detect and trace users of virtual private networks.

A recently announced problem statement for India's national hackathon – staged at the behest of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – calls for the development of tech capable of "Tracing IP Address behind VPN/Proxy Servers."

The problem statement claims such software is needed to detect criminals and should therefore track VPN users' actual IP addresses – even if proxy servers or other obfuscations are employed.

India's government has previously considered a ban on VPNs. It is unclear how or if the Ministry plans to use the output of this Hackathon challenge. ®

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