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If the major DRAM manufacturers fixed prices from 1998 to 2002, they're about to pay for it

A saga that has been cumulating for the last eight years is about to take another major step.  Seven of the major eight DRAM manufacturers will face a major antitrust complaint filing tomorrow lead by Attorney General Bill Lockyer.  Lockyer's filing for the State of California will be followed by additional suits in thirty-three more states shortly after.

The complaint claims that between 1998 and 2002 seven manufactures colluded to "fix DRAM chip prices, artificially restrain supply, allocate among themselves the production of DRAM chips and markets for the chips, and rig bids for DRAM chip contracts."  When the complaints are filed tomorrow, July 14, the following companies will be named:

  • Elpida Memory (Japan)
  • Hynix Semiconductor (South Korea)
  • Infineon Technologies AG (Germany)
  • Micron Technology (USA)
  • Mosel Vitelic (Taiwan)
  • Nanya Technology Corp. (Taiwan)
  • NEC Electronics America (USA)

Interestingly enough, the world's largest DRAM manufacturer, Samsung, is not listed in the claim.  Samsung had a DRAM market share of roughly 30% at the time and has been found guilty of price fixing during that same period.  In March of 2004, the FTC dropped an antitrust case against Rambus, to which Rambus turned around and sued Infineon, Hynix and Micron for artificially decreasing the price of DRAM to hurt the proliferation of RDRAM. Samsung, Rambus' major producer of RDRAM at the time, was also absent from these accusations.

The alleged collusion hurt the bottom line of several PC manufacturers at the time.  The suit to be filed by Lockyer names several manufactures, including Apple, Compaq, Dell, Gateway and IBM.

An excerpt from one of the claims reads "The manufacturers did not limit this pricing coordination to isolated or occasional conversations. On the contrary, during a roughly four-year period, there were frequent pricing communications among the conspiring manufacturers, exchanges that intensified in the days immediately preceding the dates on which they submitted bids to supply DRAM to the (computer makers), their largest and most important customers."

The industry certainly hasn't been without its share of shakeups.  In March of 2006, four Hynix executives were found guilty of price fixing, and are currently serving jail time.  Three Samsung executives were also found guilty, and Elpida was fined for price fixing too.

The suits seek retribution for the three year price fixing period, and will also impose penalties if the defendants are found guilty.



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By GoodRevrnd on 7/14/2006 2:09:44 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhh... I'm not sure you have that right.

Sure the speed is 1066 but the bandwidth on that memory was ~2.1GB/s.

Today we're at what... 4.2GB/s on an average system? That RDRAM is closer to PC2100, and how long ago did that come out.


By Watzman on 7/14/2006 8:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
No, the bandwidth was double that. The memory in my machine here (that I'm typing this on, an Asus P4T533 motherboard) is "RIMM4200". This was the later designation for the memory after they changed from the ealier designation based on clock speed. RIMM4200 = 4.2GB/s, not 2.1. And further, this was shipping in 2001, and they had a 1333 MHz version working in 2003, but there was no desktop chipset for it. RDRAM was many years ahead of it's time, almost a half decade, and the industry suffered when it was forced out for SDRAM (dramatically slower) and then DDR (still slower as it was introduced in 2002-2003, although of course it's gotten faster since then). And while undoubtedly DDR2 is faster (now, in 2006) than RDRAM was in 2002, it's dramatically slower (by something like 90%) than Rambus' current product (XDR) is capable of.


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