TAIPEI — Samsung Electronics, which has been in a nip-and-tuck race with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) to win foundry orders with the world’s most advanced fabrication technology, may have grabbed all of Qualcomm’s business with a second-generation version of its 14nm FinFET process.
Samsung has launched commercial production of advanced logic using its 14nm Low-Power Plus (LPP) process, the latest generation of the 14nm process technology, the company said in a press statement.
Qualcomm, which accounted for about 20 percent of TSMC’s orders two years ago, has moved most of its business to Samsung at 10/14nm for 2017 and beyond, according to Warren Lau, an analyst with Maybank Kim Eng in Hong Kong.
“Samsung is the sole supplier for all Qualcomm future 14nm chipsets and modems,” Lau said in emailed comments to EE Times. “This is also the case at 10nm.”
Samsung said Qualcomm is making its Snapdragon 820 processor on Samsung’s new 14nm LPP process, and the first products will be in mobile devices in the first half of this year.
Samsung said it was the industry leader with the first FinFET process, announced during the first quarter of 2015, when it launched the Exynos 7 Octa processor built on the company’s 14nm Low-Power Early (LPE) process. Samsung said it will use the new 14nm LPP process to make its Exynos 8 Octa processor.
The Samsung announcement coincides with a prediction from TSMC on January 14 that TSMC’s share of the 16nm/14nm market will increase to 70 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2015. TSMC forecast demand for its 16nm products to increase, accounting for about 20 percent of the company’s revenue in 2016, according to company Co-CEO C.C. Wei.
Apple has become TSMC’s largest 16nm FinFET customer, using the process technology to make the Apple A10 processor in 2016 and possibly the A11 in 2017, according to Maybank’s Lau. Taiwan’s MediaTek said it also plans to use TSMC’s 16nm FinFET process.
Samsung and TSMC are developing lower cost versions of their FinFET processes to stay competitive.
In the fourth quarter of 2015, TSMC completed the development of 16nm FinFET Compact (16nm FFC), a low-power, low-cost version of its 16nm FinFET products that were introduced in the middle of 2015. The company expects 16nm FFC to start production during the current quarter.
“Samsung will continue to offer derivative processes of its advanced 14nm FinFET technology to maintain our technology leadership,” said Charlie Bae, Samsung’s Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, System LSI Business.
Samsung said its new 14nm LPP process delivers up to 15 percent higher speed and 15 percent less power consumption over the previous 14nm LPE process through improvements in transistor structure and process optimization. In addition, Samsung said its use of fully-depleted FinFET transistors brings enhanced manufacturing capabilities to overcome scaling limitations.
Samsung expects its 14nm FinFET process to be used in mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) silicon as well as a wide range of network and automotive chips that need high performance and power efficiency.