Tue, Jan 04, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Qualcomm to build US$1bn Mirasol fab

EFFICIENT PRODUCTS:The power-efficient displays, which are used in electronic handheld devices such as e-readers, use less energy than LCD panels of a similar size

By Jason Tan  /  Staff reporter with Bloomberg

Eyeing the lucrative handheld electronics market, US chipmaker Qualcomm Inc is investing nearly US$1 billion in a Mirasol display plant in Taiwan, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday.

The factory will occupy seven hectares, and be located in Longtan (龍潭), the site of the Hsinchu Science Park.

This investment follows Qualcomm’s joint venture with local electronics component maker Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co (正崴) in 2008 to set up Sollink Inc (高強光電), which makes handset displays using Qualcomm’s Mirasol technology.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said in September that the company expects “significant growth” out of Mirasol displays.

The new plant will produce smaller displays using power--efficient Mirosal technology for handheld devices such as electronic readers.

Those displays, mostly smaller than 5.7 inches, consume less power than LCD panels of a similar size and active matrix organic light emitting displays (AMOLED).

Jacobs said the potential overall market for displays similar to Qualcomm’s Mirasol screens would be worth about US$11 billion in annual sales. He said in September that Qualcomm plans to sharply cut the price of its Mirasol technology to develop a bigger market.

Last August, Northern Taiwan Science Park Administration -director-general Randy Yen (顏宗明) said Qualcomm was going to invest NT$63 billion (US$2.2 billion) in a Mirosal plant by leasing a 5.1-hectare plot from the government.

The so-called fifth-generation plant, which contractors began to build late last year, will process a maximum of 50,000 sheets of the raw materials used to make the displays per month, Yen said.

The ministry yesterday said Qualcomm had evaluated other possible sites, including China, South Korea, Japan and Singapore, but decided to invest in Taiwan because of the massive pool of -technology talent here.

“Qualcomm has established a rapport with Taiwanese information, communications and technology firms, and it is aggressively involved in the development of Mirasol displays in view of the rise of smart handhelds such as e--readers,” the statement said.

The ministry said the new plant would bolster local employment opportunities and enhance Taiwan’s competitiveness in the display manufacturing industry.Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子) and AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the world’s third and fourth-largest LCD makers, are also based in Taiwan.

Major Taiwanese technology firms, including Acer Inc (宏碁), Asustek Computer Inc (華碩電腦), BenQ Corp (明基) and Delta Electronics Inc (台達電), have introduced e-readers that allow users to read books and magazines downloaded from the Internet.

Qualcomm established a presence in Taiwan in 2003 by opening an office in Taipei and another in Hsinchu.

The Taipei office is the regional marketing and sales center for Qualcomm’s CDMA Technologies division, while the Hsinchu office supports Qualcomm’s MEMS Technologies division and leads the transfer of its display technology to manufacturing partners throughout Asia, according to its Web site.

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