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RFMD to build $103m single-chip integration fab

The leading manufacturer of GaAs power amplifiers is to add a second 6-inch post-epitaxial processing plant to its Greensboro empire.

RF Micro Devices is constructing a $103 million fab to produce more highly integrated GaAs power amplifier chips for miniaturization-motivated cellphone makers.

The expansion will provide the PA maker with the capacity to produce wafer-level packaged SAW filters and develop “next-generation process technologies”.

“Our next-generation technologies will include those which afford single chip integration of power amplifier, switch, low-noise amplifier and control necessary for integrated front end products in cellular and WiMAX applications,” the company told compoundsemiconductor.net.

The facility is intended to be production capable by late summer 2008 and will be sited in Greensboro, North Carolina, separately from RFMD s existing campus.

Initially, it will employ 100 to 150 additional employees, but this will ultimately increase to over 300.

The new fab will be the company s second 6-inch post-epitaxial wafer processing line, on top of existing 4-inch and 6-inch GaAs fabs and its separately-housed MBE facility.

RFMD will be spending more money on processing equipment for photolithography, metallization, wafer dicing and other fabrication steps.

“The fab will accommodate rolling capacity expansion which will track market demand,” the company said.

“The initial equipment investment will be below $100 million but could exceed twice that amount prior to reaching the facility floor space capacity maximum.”

Products for various markets will be made at the new fab, from increasingly integrated handset front ends through to wireless networking. RFMD s GaAs technologies will serve both WiMAX networking and the new 802.11n standard for wireless local-area-networks (WLAN).

The company is also touting GaN for WiMAX, and confirmed that it is ramping GaN production for specific customers. Its initial engagements are in the military and defense spheres, specifically in military communications and radar.

The other current expansion effort ongoing at RFMD, the purchase of Sirenza Microdevices in a $300 million cash and $600 million stock deal (see related story), has recently received formal antitrust approval.

On June 30, at the end of its fiscal 2007, RFMD said it had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of approximately $700 million. This figure will now be much reduced, but the PA maker has significantly changed the industry playing field for the price.

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