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China Forecast to Represent 22% of the Foundry Market in 2020, says IC Insights

IC Insights recently released its September Update to the 2020 McClean Report that presented the second of a two-part analysis on the global IC foundry industry and included a look at the pure-play foundry market by region.

China was responsible for essentially all of the total pure-play foundry market increase in 2018. In 2019, the U.S./China trade war slowed China's economic growth but its foundry marketshare still increased by two percentage points to 21%. Moreover, despite the Covid-19 shutdown of China's economy earlier this year, China's share of the pure-play foundry market is forecast to be 22% in 2020, 17 percentage points greater than it registered in 2010 (Figure 1).

TSMC Allocation the Next Battleground for Intel, AMD, and Possibly NVIDIA

With its own 7 nm-class silicon fabrication node nowhere in sight for its processors, at least not until 2022-23, Intel is seeking out third-party semiconductor foundries to support its ambitious discrete GPU and scalar compute processor lineup under the Xe brand. A Taiwanese newspaper article interpreted by Chiakokhua provides a fascinating insight to the the new precious resource in the high-technology industry - allocation.

TSMC is one of these foundries, and will give Intel access to a refined 7 nm-class node, either the N7P or N7+, for some of its Xe scalar compute processors. The company could also seek out nodelets such as the N6. Trouble is, Intel will be locking horns with the likes of AMD for precious foundry allocation. NVIDIA too has secured a certain allocation of TSMC 7 nm for some of its upcoming "Ampere" GPUs. Sources tell China Times that TSMC will commence mass-production of Intel silicon as early as 2021, on either N7P, N7+, or N6. Business from Intel is timely for TSMC as it is losing orders from HiSilicon (Huawei) in wake of the prevailing geopolitical climate.

TSMC to Stop Orders from Huawei in September

TSMC, one of the largest semiconductor manufacturing foundries, has officially confirmed that it will stop all orders from Chinese company Huawei Technologies. The Taiwanese silicon manufacturer has decided to comply with US regulations and will officially stop processing orders for Huawei on September 14th of this year. Precisely, the company was receiving orders from HiSilicon, a subsidiary of Huawei Technologies that focuses on creating custom silicon. Under the new regulation by the US, all non-US companies must apply for a license to ship any American-made technology to Huawei. Being that many American companies like KLA Corporation, Lam Research, and Applied Materials ship their tools to many manufacturing facilities, it would be quite difficult for Huawei to manufacture its silicon anywhere. That is why Huawei has already placed orders over at Chinese SMIC foundry.

SMIC Begins Mass-Production of 14nm FinFET SoCs for Huawei HiSilicon

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the state-backed Mainland Chinese semiconductor foundry, announced that it commenced mass-production of 14 nm FinFET SoCs for Huawei's HiSilicon subsidiary, a mere one month since Huawei shifting chip orders from TSMC to it. The company is manufacturing Kirin 710A is a revision of the original Kirin 710 SoC from 2018, built on SMIC's 14 nm node. The 4G-era SoC is capable of powering mid-range smartphones for Huawei's Honor brand, and uses an Arm big.LITTLE setup of Cortex A53 and Cortex A57 cores. This represents a major milestone not just for SMIC, but also Huawei, which has seen the company's isolation from cutting-edge overseas fabs such as TSMC. Much of Huawei's fate is riding on the success of SMIC's next-generation N+1 node, which purportedly offers a 57 percent energy-efficiency gain over 14 nm FinFET, rivaling sub-10 nm nodes such as 7 nm; enabling Huawei to build 5G-era SoCs.

TSMC 5 nm Customers Listed, Intel Rumored to be One of Them

TSMC is working hard to bring a new 5 nm (N5 and N5+) despite all the hiccups the company may have had due to the COVID-19 pandemic happening. However, it seems like nothing can stop TSMC, and plenty of companies have already reserved some capacity for their chips. With mass production supposed to start in Q3 of this year, 5 nm node should become one of the major nodes over time for TSMC, with predictions that it will account for 10% of all capacity for 2020. Thanks to the report of ChinaTimes, we have a list of new clients for the TSMC 5 nm node, with some very interesting names like Intel appearing on the list.

Apple and Huawei/HiSilicon will be the biggest customers for the node this year with A14 and Kirin 1000 chips being made for N5 node, with Apple ordering the A15 chips and Huawei readying the Kirin 1100 5G chip for the next generation N5+. From there, AMD will join the 5 nm party for Zen 4 processors and RDNA 3 graphics cards. NVIDIA has also reserved some capacity for its Hopper architecture, which is expected to be a consumer-oriented option, unlike Ampere. And perhaps the most interesting entry to the list is Intel Xe graphics cards. The list shows that Intel might use the N5 process form TSMC so it can ensure the best possible performance for its future cards, in case it has some issues manufacturing its own nodes, just like it did with 10 nm.
TSMC 5 nm customers

NVIDIA and HiSilicon Enter Top 10 Semiconductor Suppliers List

HiSilicon, a subsidiary company of Huawei, has officially entered the top 10 list of the semiconductor suppliers in the first quarter of 2020. This is a very important milestone for HiSilicon, as this shows just how big demand there is for its chips. Starting from smartphone chips going inside Huawei phones, server processors, and telecommunication equipment, HiSilicon has been busy pumping out designs at a very high rate. And now, thanks to the report of IC Insights, we have information that HiSilicon has become one of the biggest players in the industry.

Ranked at number 10 spot, HiSilicon is the first company from China that has entered this list. At the number nine spot is NVIDIA, which is also a new entry to the list. Thanks to the growth of 37% for the quarter, NVIDIA can hold number nine spot. In total, the top 10 of the semiconductor suppliers have climbed 16% on year in the first quarter of 2020, which is a very impressive result, counting in the current pandemic in the world.
Top 10 Semiconductor Suppliers TSMC Sales to HiSilicon

Huawei Moves 14 nm Silicon Orders from TSMC to SMIC

Huawei's subsidiary, HiSilicon, which designs the processors used in Huawei's smartphones and telecommunications equipment, has reportedly moved its silicon orders from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), according to DigiTimes. Why Huawei decided to do is move all of the 14 nm orders from Taiwanese foundry to China's largest silicon manufacturing fab, is to give itself peace of mind if the plan of the US Government goes through to stop TSMC from supplying Huawei. At least for the mid-tier chips built using 14 nm node, Huawei would gain some peace as a Chinese fab is a safer choice given the current political situation.

When it comes to the high-end SoCs built on 7 nm, and 5 nm in the future, it is is still uncertain how will Huawei behave in this situation, meaning that if US cuts off TSMC's supply to Huawei, they will be forced to use SMIC's 7 nm-class N+1 node instead of anything from TSMC. Another option would be Samsung, but it is a question will Huawei put itself in risk to be dependant on another foreign company. The lack of 14 nm orders from Huawei will not be reflecting much on TSMC, because whenever someone decides to cut orders, another company takes up the manufacturing capactiy. For example, when Huawei cut its 5 nm orders, Apple absorbed by ordering more capacity. When Huawei also cut 7 nm orders, AMD and other big customers decided to order more, making the situation feel like there is a real fight for TSMC's capacity.
Silicon Wafer

U.S. Government Tightens Screws on Huawei's Global Chip Supply from TSMC

The U.S. government announced advanced measures that make it harder for foreign companies, such as Taiwan's TSMC, to supply chips to Chinese telecom hardware giant Huawei. Foreign companies that use American chipmaking equipment, are required to obtain a license from the U.S. before supplying certain chips to Huawei. Sources comment that the new rule was tailor-made to curb TSMC fabricating smartphone SoCs for Huawei's HiSilicon subsidiary.

Mainland Chinese semiconductor companies are still behind Samsung and TSMC in 7 nm-class fab technologies, forcing HiSilicon to source from the latter. 7 nm fabrication is a key requirement for SoCs and modem chips capable of 5G. The high data transceiving rates of 5G requires a certain amount of compute power that can fit into smartphone-level power-envelopes only with the help of 7 nm, at least for premium smartphone form-factors. Same applies to 5G infrastructure equipment. This is hence perceived as a means for the U.S. to clamp brakes on Huawei's plans of playing a big role in 5G tech rollouts around the world, buying western 5G tech suppliers such as Nokia time to catch up. Huawei has been a flashpoint for a bitter political spat between the U.S. and China, with the Chinese press even threatening that the matter could hamper medical supplies to the U.S. to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

AMD to Outpace Apple as TSMC's Biggest 7nm Customer in 2020

AMD in the second half of 2020 could outpace Apple as the biggest foundry customer of TSMC for its 7 nm silicon fabrication nodes (DUV and EUV combined). There are two key factors contributing to this: AMD significantly increasing its orders for the year; and Apple transitioning to TSMC's 5 nm node for its A14 SoC, freeing up some 7 nm allocation, which AMD grabbed. AMD is currently tapping into 7 nm DUV for its "Zen 2" chiplet, "Navi 10," and "Navi 14" GPU dies. The company could continue to order 7 nm DUV until these products reach EOL; while also introducing the new "Renoir" APU die on the process. The foundry's new 7 nm+ (EUV) node will be utilized for "Zen 3" chiplets and "Navi 2#" GPU dies in 2020.

Currently, the top-5 customers for TSMC 7 nm are Apple, HiSilicon, Qualcomm, AMD, and MediaTek. Barring AMD, the others in the top-5 build mobile SoCs or 4G/5G modem chips on the node. AMD is expected to top the list as it scales up orders with TSMC. In the first half of 2020, TSMC's monthly output for 7 nm is expected to grow to 110,000 wafers per month (wpm). Apple's migration to 5 nm in 2H-2020, coupled with capacity-addition could take TSMC's 7 nm output to 140,000 wpm. AMD has reportedly booked the entire capacity-addition for 30,000 wpm, taking its allocation up to 21% in 2H-2020. Qualcomm is switching to Samsung for its next-generation SoCs and modems designed for 7 nm EUV. NVIDIA, too, is expected to built its next-gen 7 nm EUV GPUs on Samsung instead of TSMC. These moves by big players could free up significant foundry allocation at TSMC for AMD's volumes to grow in 2020.

AMD "Zen 4" 2021 Launch On Track as TSMC Optimistic About 5 nm

AMD's "Zen 4" CPU microarchitecture is on track for a 2021 launch as its principal foundry partner, TSMC, is optimistic about early yields of its 5 nm silicon fabrication node. TSMC supports the 5 nm product roadmaps of not just AMD, but also Apple and HiSilicon. "Zen 4" is particularly important for AMD, as it will release its next enterprise platform, codenamed "Genoa," along with the new SP5 socket. The new socket will present AMD with the opportunity to significantly change the processor's I/O, such as support for a new memory standard, a new PCIe generation, more memory channels, more PCIe lanes, etc. As early as 2019, the foundry is seeing yields of over 50 percent for the 5 nm node (possibly risk production designed to test the node), which is very encouraging for its customers.

AMD's roadmap for 2020 sees the introduction of "Zen 3" on the 7 nm EUV process (dubbed 7 nm+). AMD recently commented that the performance uplift of "Zen 3" versus "Zen 2" will be "right in line with what you would expect from an entirely new architecture." The 7 nm EUV node provides a significant 20 percent increase in transistor-density compared to the current 7 nm DUV node "Zen 2" chiplets and the company's "Navi" family of GPUs are built on. "Zen 3" could see the company do away with the CCX (quad-core CPU complex), and make chiplets monolithic blocks of CPU cores without sub-divisions. For the client-segment, 5 is a recurring number in 2021. It will see the introduction of the 5th generation Ryzen processors (5000-series), built on the 5 nm process, supporting DDR5 memory, PCI-Express gen 5, and the new AM5 client-segment CPU socket.

ARM Revokes Huawei's Chip IP Licence

As the trade war between the US and China continues to unfold, we are seeing major US companies ban or stop providing service to China's technology giant Huawei. Now, it looks like the trade war has crossed the ocean and reached the UK. This time, UK based ARM Holdings, the provider of mobile chip IP for nearly all smartphones and tablets, has revoked the license it has given Huawei.

According to the BBC, ARM Holdings employees were instructed to suspend all interactions with Huawei, and to send a note informing Huawei that "due to an unfortunate situation, they were not allowed to provide support, deliver technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities." The news came from an internal ARM document the BBC has obtained.

TSMC 7nm EUV Process to Enter Mass-Production in March 2019

TSMC is giving final touches to set its flagship 7 nanometer EUV (extreme ultraviolet lithography) silicon fabrication node at its highest state of readiness for business, called mass-production. At this state, the node can mass-produce products for TSMC's customers. TSMC had taped out its first 7 nm EUV chips in October 2018. The company will also begin risk-production of the more advanced 5 nm node in April, staying on schedule. Mass production of 5 nm chips could commence in the first half of 2020.

The 7 nm EUV node augments TSMC's 7 nm DUV (deep ultraviolet lithography) node that's been already active since April 2018, and producing chips for AMD, Apple, HiSilicon, and Xilinx. At the turn of the year, 7 nm DUV made up 9 percent of TSMC's shipments. With the new node going online, 7 nm (DUV + EUV) could make up 25 percent of TSMC's output by the end of 2019.

TSMC's 7nm Production Likely to Be Underutilized in 2019 as Smartphone Chip Demand Weakens

DigiTimes, citing a Chinese-language Commercial Times report, cites TSMC's 7 nm foundry capacity as likely being underutilized in 2019. After TSMC announced it expected cutting-edge 7 nm designs to correspond to around 20% of the company's revenues in 2019, the company will likely have to review those projections, as lower demand from smartphone chip manufacturers will likely leave TSMC with less actual output than that which it can churn out.

Due to a cutback in orders placed by Apple, HiSilicon and Qualcomm, concerns regarding TSMC's ability to be the sole 7 nm chip fabrication tech for the industry can likely be laid to rest. That the smartphone market is reaching saturation is a well-known quantity - it's becoming harder and harder to cram new technologies that justify the yearly smartphone upgrade that most companies vie for - and one of the reasons for the launch of various brand-specific smartphone subscription services. The difference isn't scandalous - TSMC will still be making use of 80-90% of its total 7nm process capacity during the first half of 2019, the report quoted industry sources as saying.
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