Recently, the shortage of automobile chip production capacity has become the focus of the market, which has also triggered the industry’s thinking on the question of “whether automobiles can change the development pattern of the semiconductor industry”.
At present, the automotive-grade market is mainly dominated by international companies. For domestic chip companies, there is still a high threshold for entering the market. However, under the dual promotion of the development and localization of automotive chips, domestic chip manufacturers have also begun to develop in the direction of automotive-grade chips. Among them, the automotive Ethernet physical layer chip is one of the directions of the domestic automotive-grade chip manufacturers.
Yutai Microelectronics is one of the few domestic companies dedicated to the research and development of Ethernet chips, especially after its automotive-grade Ethernet PHY chips have been successfully introduced into the platforms of major domestic well-known car manufacturers, which also means that Ethernet PHY Chips have become another breakthrough point for my country’s automotive-grade chips.
Interpretation of the domestic Ethernet chip market
Ethernet is the English translation of Ethernet. It is a wired local area network communication protocol formulated by the IEEE Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. It mainly refers to the first layer of physical layer PHY and the second layer of medium access layer MAC in communication technology.
In the current market, there are mainly four large product types:
The first category is the independent first-layer physical layer PHY chip products, including 100M PHY, 1000M PHY, 2.5G PHY, 5G/10G PHY, vehicle 100M PHY, 1000M PHY chip, etc.;
The second type is the LSW small switch chip with a processing capacity of less than 100G and a port number of less than 24 ports. The processing capacity is generally up to the second layer of the MAC layer;
The third category is the SMB small network management switch chip with a processing capacity of more than 100G and less than 1T, and the number of ports is more than 48 ports. The processing capacity reaches the third layer of the network layer;
The fourth type is the core switch chip that integrates high-density high-speed ports of 10GE or more and has a processing bandwidth of more than 1T. These products have strong management capabilities for network communications and can handle complex services.
In the view of Yutai Microelectronics, Ethernet chips are the basic chips in the network communication world, and the market demand is very huge. As long as network cables are involved in data communication, security, industry, and automotive fields, there is demand for Ethernet chips.
According to a rough estimate of market volume and transaction amount, the first type of Ethernet chips mentioned above include independent PHY chips with various speeds and various port numbers. The global transaction amount is about 1 billion US dollars, and the domestic transaction amount is about The second type of LSW small switching chips are usually integrated PHY, and the shipment volume is lower than the transaction amount of the independent PHY chip; the third type of SMB Ethernet switching chip is mainly used in enterprise network management switches. , the global transaction amount is more than 1 billion US dollars per year; the fourth type of core switch chip products are mainly used in data centers, and the single chip value of this type of chips is relatively high, and the domestic market volume exceeds 1 billion US dollars per year. This field is also the current high-end market for Ethernet technology. Compared with international manufacturers such as Cisco and Broadcom, there is still a big gap between local enterprises.
Ouyang Yufei, CEO of Yutai Microelectronics, believes that there are two key factors that have driven the further expansion of the Ethernet chip market in recent years.
“One is that as the market requires higher and higher network speed, 100M is being replaced by gigabit, and gigabit will be replaced by 2.5G/5G/10G. With the increase in the unit port amount, the entire transaction amount scale It will continue to increase. Second, with the intelligent development of the entire world, Ethernet, as the core technology of high-speed wired networks, has also ushered in a big explosion.”
Ouyang Yufei believes that driven by the demand for intelligence, especially in the automotive field, the development of electrification and intelligence has made the main form of the original vehicle network migrate from the CAN bus to the Ethernet, and the number of Ethernet ports on the vehicle body is rapidly increasing. Increase. He said: “It is normal for a L4 smart car to have 100 Ethernet ports. Therefore, the growth of the in-vehicle market will soon exceed the current market volume. In the next five years, domestic Ethernet chips will The market will break $10 billion soon.”
At the same time, Ouyang Yufei also pointed out that in terms of Ethernet chip technology and products, there is still a certain gap between local enterprises and international manufacturers. In the fields of PHY, LSW, and SMB, domestic manufacturers are expected to catch up with international manufacturers in two years, while in the field of core Ethernet switching chips, it will take longer to catch up. But from a positive point of view, with the accumulation of local talents and experience, the strength of domestic related enterprises is also increasing.
“The crown jewel of the Ethernet world” breaks into the automotive field
In the world of Ethernet chips, the physical layer chip is a part of the Ethernet technology with a higher threshold, but it is also a necessary part. This digital-analog hybrid design not only includes high-speed ADC/DAC, high-precision PLL and other analog designs, but also requires DSP design capabilities for filtering algorithms and signal recovery. Looking at the whole country, it is difficult to find such a complete product design team.
Ouyang Yufei said: “If there is no physical layer chip design technology, switching chips and even chips above L3 layer have to purchase PHY IP integration, and chips designed in this way do not have a competitive advantage in the market and are difficult to commercialize. , its application areas will also be limited, so Ethernet PHY technology is often referred to as the ‘jewel in the crown of the Ethernet world’.”
This is also the opportunity for Yutai Microelectronics to be established. According to Ouyang Yufei, automotive Ethernet was still an emerging field at the time. The standards had just been formulated, and there were relatively few competitors. Moreover, the company’s core technical team had been deeply involved in the field of Ethernet PHY chips for many years. Therefore, when the company was established in 2016, I chose this product as a breakthrough.
Judging from the market situation at the time, Yutai Microelectronics believes that the field of high-end Ethernet PHY chips has been monopolized by international giants, and the consumer market is dominated by Taiwanese manufacturers who are known for their cost-effectiveness. It is difficult for start-ups to cut in in a short period of time. these areas. As a new application scenario of Ethernet PHY chips, the automotive field also has a momentum of development at this time. Therefore, Yutai Microelectronics chose to make breakthroughs in the automotive field.
After several years of development, Yutai Microelectronics has also made remarkable achievements in the automotive field.
In 2020, Yutai Microelectronics vehicle 100Base-T1 PHY has been successfully imported into the platforms of major domestic well-known car manufacturers after various vehicle tests and verifications. According to Ouyang Yufei, Yutai Microelectronics is currently vigorously developing the next-generation vehicle PHY chip, 1000Base-T1 PHY, which is expected to be connected to downstream manufacturers within one year.
“The jigsaw puzzle of Yutai’s on-board products has been basically planned,” said Ouyang Yufei: “The automotive-grade Ethernet PHY chip is just the beginning of the entire Yutai on-board layout, and the company will develop in more directions in the future.”
Local enterprises help the development of Ethernet chips
Since the preparation in 2016, Yutai Microelectronics has developed four product lines, including independent PHY chip product line, switching chip product line, high-speed network card product line and gateway product line. Among them, gateway products are mainly launched for industrial and vehicle layout. According to Ouyang Yufei, Yutai’s product lines are all based on Ethernet PHY technology to expand upward, and they are well aware of the plight of other domestic Ethernet chip companies lacking PHY IP, so Yutai Micro also provides IP authorization services. Productable PHY IP is currently available on several processes.
The four product lines of Yutai Microelectronics can cover several major markets such as digital communication, automotive, industrial, security, and consumer. According to Ouyang Yufei, Yutai started supplying products in the middle of last year and has achieved satisfactory results in various segments. As far as the current situation is concerned, products in the fields of security and data communication are the most promising.
Based on the development experience of Yutai Microelectronics in the field of Ethernet chips, they believe that the key to the development of Ethernet chip technology by local enterprises lies in two points:
1. Catch up – learn advanced technology. This stage is also the main technology upgrade method of Yutai Microelectronics since its establishment. Ouyang Yufei said that Yutai Microelectronics worked with partners to define and iterate various types of Ethernet PHY chips, paving the way for a completely self-developed, self-produced and self-sold domestic Ethernet chip. At this stage, continuously improving products and narrowing the technological gap is the first step for Yutai Microelectronics to break through.
To this end, Yutai Microelectronics has invested a lot in research and development, and the main funds will be used to expand more product lines.
2. Beyond – market traction. In addition to the research and development of compatible products, gradually laying out manpower, and under the traction of market terminals, methodically excavating application scenarios in market segments is also one of the keys for domestic Ethernet chips to enter the market competition.
As a domestic manufacturer that can already supply Ethernet PHY chips on a large scale, Yutai Microelectronics has put forward its own views on the development of the domestic Ethernet PHY chip market. They pointed out that in terms of chip technology, the PHY technology of Yutai Microelectronics has matured and is still being updated and iterated. Yutai welcomes system manufacturers and domestic design companies to discuss cooperation and purchase Yutai’s PHY IP for integration; At the chip market level, independent Ethernet PHY chips are important, but compared to the entire Ethernet chip market, this is still a limited market. In addition to Yutai Microelectronics, many companies have entered the market and are vigorously developing Ethernet PHY chips. Based on the above points, local enterprises should avoid repeated investment, which will lead to unhealthy development of the market. There are still many gaps in domestic chips that have not been filled. We should fill those gaps with talents and capital, and those markets are more imaginative.
The future of domestic Ethernet chips
Regarding the future of domestic Ethernet chip development, Yutai Microelectronics believes that although changes in the trade environment have brought uncertainty to this field, driven by localization, the development of local Ethernet chips can still be expected.
This promising future is inseparable from the support from the upstream and downstream of the industry chain to the Ethernet chip market.
From the perspective of capital support, the development of Yutai Microelectronics has been recognized by the capital market. Their support gave Yutai Microelectronics a chance to play its part in the Ethernet chip market.
Ouyang Yufei believes that in recent years, major capitals have given support to chip design companies, especially the favor of domestic first-mover companies. As a pioneer in the domestic Ethernet PHY field, Yutai Microelectronics has benefited from the dividends of major capital markets to a large extent in terms of market orientation, policy support, industrial supply and demand, and personnel allocation. Customer promotion, project support, capacity supply, talent injection and other aspects have received great impetus.
“The support of the upstream and downstream industry chains for domestic chip design companies is far more than just helping them out.” Ouyang Yufei said: “This feeling of unity and unity is in the chip industry, at least in my more than 20 years of experience in the industry, It’s a long-lost emotion.”
He added that if we look at the niche field of Ethernet chips, I hope the industry chain can give start-ups more patience and confidence. Ouyang Yufei said: “For start-ups, there is still a lack of talent and technology accumulation, and trial and error is also a part of the trial. Mature products rely on the continuous encouragement and guidance of many customers. It is believed that in the past three years, Yutai Microelectronics will be able to achieve a leap-forward self-breakthrough in the field of Ethernet chips.”
From the perspective of strategic deployment, in the next five years, Yutai’s development strategy will be “market-oriented, technology-driven”. The company will plan its product layout according to the market blueprint, and then gradually improve talent construction and technical reserves according to the product layout. Achieve “commercialized products, productized technologies”.
In the future development, Yutai Microelectronics will consolidate the market share in the independent PHY chip product line, actively expand the market of other Ethernet product lines, and focus on the layout of the vehicle market. Yutai Microelectronics expects that in five years, the company can occupy a place in many sub-fields, constantly improve itself, and build a dream of “core” in China.