PHS MEMS counts on growth in market for mobile handsets

Click here to enlarge image

July 22, 2002 — PHS MEMS is one of the few French companies that specialize in MEMS. Created in 1998, the Grenoble-based firm is focused on the communication market, with products and services related to passive (operated only by the power of an input signal) radio frequency (RF) and optical devices.

Click here to enlarge image

For the RF wireless market, a full range of small electronic components — such as antennae-on-a-chip and filters to improve signals — have been designed to increase miniaturization of handsets and decrease production costs.

In optical devices, the company designs 2-D and 3-D micromirrors to be integrated in optical switching systems.

Click here to enlarge image

Apart from its own products, the company provides services, and especially “design and proprietary development.” A team of 19 people, and a set of design libraries in photonic, broadband and micropackaging applications, allow PHS to create new customized products, from initial design to industrialization.

To achieve that, PHS owns its own foundry, equipped with more than 250 semiconductor processing machines, able to produce 12,000 wafers a month.

But what really drives the company is “MEMS’ foreseable market growth,” as Thierry Touchais, head of PHS MEMS since December 2001, puts it. “The market for RF wireless MEMS devices is forecasted to grow to $1 billion by 2006. We believe that the addressable market for MEMS in the mobile communications market is $2 to $3 per handset in 2006.”

Touchais said the forecast is also high in optical networking. “The worldwide market is expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2006. Within this global market, the optical switching equipment represents over $850 million, and the specific MEMS components for such equipment $90 million. PHS has produced custom 2-D and 3-D mirrors, and has focused its internal development resources on a proprietary array of switches for protection application.”

In the segment addressed by PHS, apart from mobile handsets and optical switches, MEMS could be used in contactless smartcards, GPS devices or automotive appliances. PHS, which opened headquarters in Silicon Valley at the end of last year, expects its turnover to be split between the United States (40 percent), Europe (40 percent) and Asia (20 percent).

PHS already raised $42.8 million from a half-dozen venture capitalists.

And yet, things are not that simple. “If everybody agrees that the MEMS market will grow, it remains low. Especially in the telecommunications and RF wireless segment, the market does not live up to people’s expectations, and many business plans written a few years ago are proving wrong,” warned Jean-Louis Daudon, a member of ARATEM, a nonprofit organization for researchers and companies involved in measurement, sensors and precision systems.

“Even if it’s less true with PHS MEMS, which has a strong industrial past, I worry about these nano or MEMS companies that should be aware of the ‘startup syndrome,’ ” Daudon said. “I see big amounts of fundings, raised on the stock market or from VCs, but so far most of these companies have very low revenues. They all want to address big markets, and thus need big investments. … They have to find customers instead.”


Company file: PHS MEMS
(last updated July 22, 2002)


Avenue de Rochepleine
BP 420
38524 Saint Egreve Cedex

North America: (wholly owned subsidiary PHS MEMS Inc.)
EmeryStation North
5980 Horton Street, Suite 225
Emeryville, Calif., 94608

Founded in August 1998; opened wholly owned subsidiary, PHS MEMS Inc., in December 2001.


Small tech-related products and services
PHS MEMS develops and manufactures MEMS-based passive optical and wireless RF (radio frequency) devices for the communications niche. PHS aims to be a one-step client solution, addressing needs ranging from design and prototyping to high-volume production. Target clients include module suppliers/OEMs, semiconductor manufacturers and telecom integrators.

The company’s products include:

  • Inductors
  • Integrated passive components
  • Filters
  • 2-D and 3-D micromirrors for switching systems
  • Management

  • Thierry Touchais: president and chief executive officer
  • Luc Pittier: administrative and finance director


    Investment history
    PHS MEMS completed an initial round of funding in August 1998 with five participants, including IDI Kairos and Sofinnova Partners; a second round in January 2000 with eight participants, including Sofinov, InnovaFrance and Thales Ventures; and a third round in March 2001 raised $26.8 million, with eight participants, including AXA Private Equity and ETF Group.

    Barriers to market
    Capital investment and process characterization resources.


  • STMicroelectronics
  • TRONIC’S Microsystems SA

  • Colibrys

  • Micralyne Inc.

  • Standard MEMS

    Anticipate and match OEM roadmaps for MEMS as an enabling technology for their new product platforms.

    What keeps them up at night
    The current economic slump in the technology market. The day-to-day pressure from an emerging market with limited visibility. “The thrill of creating and producing MEMS devices considered as state-of-the-art.”

    Relevant patents
    Inductive component, integrated transformer
    Microcomponents of microinductance or microtransformer type and manufacturing process
    Microelectronic part of the type of a variable capacitor or a microswitch

    Phone: 33-476-58-4813
    Fax: 33-476-58-4979
    E-mail: [email protected]

    Recent news
    PHS MEMS unveils prototyping service
    French MEMS company sets up shop in California
    MEMS to “unleash technology revolution,” says company chief


    Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.