Dedicated semiconductor foundry, TSMC, is gearing up for the mass manufacturing of Qualcomm’s 7nm-based Snapdragon 855 chipset solution for mobile phones, claims a recent Digitimes report, citing unnamed industry sources.
The chipset introduced by Qualcomm in December will power various flagship phones scheduled to hit the shelves throughout the year, including some Samsung Galaxy S10 models set to launch in market regions where Qualcomm’s solutions have historically been employed by the Korean OEM, such as the United States.
Although Qualcomm designed the Snapdragon 855 chipset, the U.S.-based company doesn’t manufacture its own silicon. This applies not only to Qualcomm but other chipset giants such as NVIDIA and MediaTek, all of which have partnered with TSMC in the past for the mass manufacturing of their solutions.
TSMC’s most profitable partnership in the mobile industry is with Apple, whose A12 Bionic SoC was the first 7nm-based chipset to become commercially available last year. The A12 Bionic was manufactured by TSMC using a 7nm FinFET process, and the same process will also be employed for the mass manufacturing of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipset.
According to the report, the Taiwanese semiconductor company expects the foundry segment to slow down this year but because TSMC has an edge over its competition thanks to the 7nm FinFET manufacturing process, the tech giant’s performance throughout 2019 is expected to exceed the industry average.
According to estimates, TSMC’s revenues for the first quarter will be anywhere between $7.3 and $7.4 billion representing a decline of roughly 14-percent from the first quarter of 2018. However, this is to be expected because at the beginning of 2018 TSMC secured orders for crypto mining ASICs which helped boost its revenue.
Sources also expect TSMC to post decreased revenues for the second quarter of the year compared to Q1, but revenues should once again increase beginning with July when the independent foundry is likely to secure orders for Apple’s upcoming chipset solution designed for the next-generation of iPhones.
As for Qualcomm's new mobile chipset, the Snapdragon 855 built on TSMC’s 7nm FinFET process features one Kryo 485 Gold Prime core based on ARM Cortex-A76 architecture, three Kryo 485 Gold cores, and four additional Kryo 485 Silver cores based on ARM Cortex-A55. The chipset also boasts 2MB sL3 and 3MB system level cache.
Other Snapdragon 855 features include the Adreno 640 graphics processor supporting the Vulkan 1.1 API and offering compatibility for HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision. The chipset supports dual 22-megapixel cameras as well as a single 48-megapixel sensor and features the X24 LTE modem which can be swapped with Qualcomm's 5G-enabled X50 modem by smartphone OEMs.
Other smartphone manufacturers and models expected to employ the TSMC-built Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset solution include Sony and the Xperia XZ4, the LG G8 ThinQ, the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S10 series, and possibly a new ZTE Axon smartphone said to introduce 5G connectivity at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.
None of these devices have been officially announced just yet, and the chipset is expected to power many other flagship devices scheduled for release over the coming months. Having said that, TSMC should have a couple of fairly busy quarters before switching its attention from Qualcomm to Apple later this year.