TSMC, Samsung Gearing Up To Compete For 5G Modem Orders

The future is 5G and per the latest DigiTimes report, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung are moving fast to stay at the forefront of the game. The report says that the two foundries are competing for 5G modem orders from vendors as they gear up to replace 4G with the next generation of wireless technology.

Both the companies have been boasting about their work in the field of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) process technology and hope to cash in on the upcoming trend of 5G smartphones.  According to the report, TSMC currently has an edge over Samsung, in that it has already secured orders from HiSilicon and MediaTek for 5G modems and has apparently also received orders for Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship chipset, which will allegedly be called the Snapdragon 865 SoC.

However, all hope is not lost for Samsung, as the report claims that if the South Korean giant ups it game and increases its EUV process yield rates, Qualcomm may redistribute some of its Snapdragon 865 orders towards it. It has been reported that splitting orders between the two companies would prove to be more economical for Qualcomm.

Samsung Foundry recently revealed that its first-generation 5nm fabrication process is now ready and the technology will use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) to deliver increased performance, power efficiency, and area advantages when compared to the company’s 7nm process.

TSMC, on the other hand, announced its 6nm manufacturing technology this week, which will offer a higher transistor density than its 7nm fabrication process. TSMC will start using the new technology from the first quarter of 2020 for risk production. The company is also expected to start the production of chips using 7nm EUV process technology from the second quarter of the year.

Qualcomm is one of the key chip makers in the market, and now that the company has made up with Apple, it has become all the more important, as the first 5G iPhones are expected to come with Qualcomm-branded 5G modems. As soon as the two announced a truce, Apple’s current modem supplier Intel announced that it's exiting the 5G smartphone modem business. Previously, Intel was being looked at as a major player in 5G smartphone modem market, along with top guns such as Qualcomm, Samsung, HiSilicon and MediaTek. However, the company apparently hit some roadblocks and long before Apple rectified its affairs with Qualcomm, it was being reported that the Cupertino giant is not entirely pleased with Intel and is looking for alternatives.

Since Apple usually split its component orders between two companies, it remains to be seen which company other than Qualcomm would be supplying it with 5G modems. Samsung could be that second supplier but with no confirmation from Apple, it’s hard to say at this point what exactly will happen. Meanwhile, Apple reportedly continues to ramp up its in-house modem development efforts to reduce its reliance on third-party vendors. Per some observers, Apple might develop its own radio chipset in 6 to 8 years, which makes sense as it has inked a six-year license agreement with Qualcomm, buying itself sufficient time to become self-reliant.

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Anam Hamid

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I have been writing on tech since 2017 and what started as a side gig has now turned into a profession that I am immensely passionate about. A computer science graduate by education, I also enjoy reading and baking.