Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is set to take a significant portion of Qualcomm’s business from Samsung next year, Nikkei reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. The San Diego, California-based tech giant is reportedly planning to change its supplier for some core processor and modem chip models and will also be using TSMC’s manufacturing operations to produce the Snapdragon 855, its next flagship silicon expected to debut in late 2018 and power high-end Android devices set to be released in 2019. Reports of Qualcomm replacing Samsung with TSMC’s foundry originally emerged in mid-2017 and were essentially confirmed over the summer, with the two being set to work on a 7nm process node meant to serve as a basis for the successor to the recently announced Snapdragon 845.
While the Snapdragon 855 is to be based on TSMC’s manufacturing process, it may still utilize Qualcomm’s own modems for Internet connectivity, whereas the ones sourced by the Taiwanese firm are more likely to be integrated into mid-range Snapdragon chips and Qualcomm’s entry-level Mobile Platform offerings, formerly known as the Snapdragon 200 series. Taking over a large portion of Qualcomm’s orders from Samsung would mark another notable win for TSMC whose business has been booming ever since the tech giant became the only supplier for core processors used by Apple’s iPhones in 2016. The last two high-end chips from Qualcomm were both manufactured using Samsung’s 10nm FinFET process, much like their Exynos-branded peers from the South Korean company.
Qualcomm primarily opted to ditch Samsung’s foundry because it wasn’t able to keep up with TSMC and deliver a commercially viable 7nm solution in 2018, one industry executive claims. The U.S. semiconductor maker is still expected to return to Samsung in 2019 once the Seoul-based firm manages to complete the development of its 7nm process with extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography that promises to make the solution even more efficient. Samsung is hence skipping regular 7nm chips in their entirety, at least as far as commercial applications are concerned. With the Korean juggernaut planning to more than triple its foundry business by 2022 and seize approximately a quarter of the global market, its success in doing so will largely depend on its performance in 2019 when it will directly take on TSMC as both will be offering 7nm EUV solutions by then, industry insiders claim. The first generation of TSMC’s 7nm technology won’t be based on EUV.