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China's SMIC Announces N+1 Node Tape-Out for 7 nm Silicon

SMIC is taking immense strides in bridging the gap between China's in-house silicon manufacturing capability compared to the usual Taiwanese or US-based options. Despite its ties to the Chinese government, which led for a US blacklisting of the company amidst the current China-US trade-war, SMIC has definitely achieved a benchmark with its 7 nm tape-out. This was achieved after a number of funding rounds, some of them with the power of the Chinese state behind them. While the blacklisting definitely hurt the company, they still have access to ASML's semiconductor manufacturing equipment, so while the rope may be tight, it likely isn't suffocating.

The node's first production tape-out is for an ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) design for Innosilicon, which specializes in cryptocurrency mining, purpose-built chips. SMIC states that the new N+1 process can offer up to 20% boosted performance at the same clocks and core complexity compared to their 12 nm designs, which is subpar compared to other player's "7 nm class nodes", such as GloFo's 12 LP+, Samsung's 8LPP and TSMC's N7 non-EUV nodes (TSMC, for instance, offered a 20% performance boost between the 10 nm and 7 nm nodes). SMIC's manufacturing looks better in other metrics, though: power requirements can be reduced by 57% at the same TDP and complexity, and the transistor density can be increased by up to 2.7 times, (the "up to" depends on specific semiconductor structures). This is SMIC is only targeting - for now - low-power and low-cost devices with the N+1 nodes.

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).

China Could Reject NVIDIA-Arm Deal, Predicts Former Lenovo Chief Engineer

In big corporate mergers and acquisitions involving multi-national corporations, money is the easy part, with the hard part being competition regulators of major markets giving their assent. The NVIDIA-Arm deal could get entangled in the US-China tech trade-war, with Beijing likely to use its approval of the deal as a bargaining chip against the US. Former Lenovo chief engineer Ni Guangnan predicts that the Chinese government's position would be to try and fight the deal on anti-trust grounds, as it could create a monopoly of chip-design tools. China's main concern, however, would be Arm IP falling into the hands of a US corporation, the California-based NVIDIA, which would put the IP under US export-control regulations.

Both Arm and NVIDIA announced an agreement for the latter to acquire Arm from SoftBank in a deal valued at USD $40 billion. NVIDIA CEO has been quoted as calling it the "deal of the century," as it would put NVIDIA in control of the biggest CPU machine architecture standard after Intel's x86, letting it scale the IP from low-power edge SoCs, to large data-center processors. Chinese regulators could cite recent examples of US export controls harming the Chinese tech industry, such as technology bans over Huawei and SMIC, in its action against the NVIDIA-Arm deal. Arm's 200-odd Chinese licensees have shipped over 19 billion chips based on the architecture as of mid-September 2020.

US Government Could Blacklist Chinese Chipmaker SMIC

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering adding to Chinese chipmaker SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) to the trade blacklist of Chinese companies, restricting the company of doing any business with the United States and/or with any of its affiliates. The original report comes from Reuters and it states that the move came from Pentagon after considering whatever SMIC should be placed on a blacklist. It is so far unclear if other US agencies support the decision, however, it should be public in the near future. The company has received the news on Saturday and it was "in complete shock" about the decision. Shortly after the news broke, SMIC stock has fallen as much as 15% amid the possible blacklist. If SMIC would like to continue working with American suppliers, it would need to seek a difficult-to-obtain license from the government.

Update 28th September: The United States government has officially imposed sanctions on the Chinese chipmaker SMIC. The company is now under US sanctions and is placed on a trade blacklist.

Qualcomm Could Deliver Chips to Huawei

In the ave of the news that Trump administration has forbidden TSMC to have Huawei as its customer, Huawei seems to be exploring new options for sourcing the best performing mobile processors. As the company has turned to the Chinese SMIC semiconductor factory, it still needs a backup plan in the case of Chinese semiconductor manufacturing flops. So to combat US sanctions, Huawei will use already made chips form the US company - Qualcomm. By sourcing the processors from Qualcomm, Huawei is losing some benefits of customs design like better system integration, however, it will gain quite powerful mobile processors. As Qualcomm is known for providing the fastest processors for Android smartphones, Huawei has ensured that it remains competitive. Qualcomm is reportedly now negotiating with the US government about delivering the chips to Huawei, and if it is allowed, Qualcomm will gain a big customer.

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 Makes a Debut on China STAR Market

Chinese silicon manufacturer Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) has officially made a debut on the Chinese science and technology innovation board (STAR) as of today. After submitting a proposal 16 days ago, SMIC already managed to start trading its shares on the STAR board of China's Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE). Why this is important you might wonder? Well now SMIC can collect more funds and invest that into node development, so the Chinese semiconductor industry is about to boom. Being the biggest semiconductor manufacturer in China, SMIC takes the lead and every development from the company is big for the Chinese semiconductor industry.

SMIC is currently trading on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (HKEX) where it used to trade exclusively. With SSE now included, it is easier for the company to trade. SMIC also submitted a proposal last year in May to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) so it can get the attention of Western investors. If the company manages to successfully raise all the funds for node development, then the Chinese semiconductor industry is about to flourish.

China's SMIC Looking for $2.8 billion Funding Round via Shanghai

As the US stranglehold on Huawei keeps on tightening its grip, China's government is keen on both investing more heavily into in-country semiconductor manufacturing that can become a viable alternative to Huawei as a source a silicon, as well as decrease the country's dependence on Western or Western-tied companies. The country has already developed promising alternatives to foreign DRAM solutions via Xi'an UniIC Semiconductors and Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC). Now, following a previously-successful funding round held in Hong Kong (worth some $2.2 billion injected last month), China's largest contract chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) is looking for an additional $2.8 billion funding round via Shanghai.

SMIC is currently years behind TSMC, the current benchmark when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing. For now, SMIC is only able to provide 14 nm product designs - and even in that node, silicon is being quoted as having as much as a 70% defect-rate on any given wafer produced by the company (they've already started 14 nm production of Huawei's low-cost Kirin 710 chipset). At any rate, sources point towards a 6,000 monthly wafer production capacity within SMIC, a very, very low number that fails to meet any current demand (TSMC, for scale, are quoted as producing as many as 110,000 7 nm wafers per month). It's definitely an uphill battle, but SMIC counts with the might of the Chinese government through its sails - so while the waters might not be smooth, investment rounds such as these two (which amount to some $5 billion capital injection in two months) will be sure to help grease the engines for china's semiconductor expansion as much as possible.

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.

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

SMIC 7nm-class N+1 Foundry Node Going Live by Q4-2020

China's state-backed SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) has set an ambitious target of Q4-2020 for its 7 nanometer-class N+1 foundry node to go live, achieving "small scale production," according to a cnTechPost report. The company has a lot of weight on its shoulders as geopolitical hostility between the U.S. and China threatens to derail the country's plans to dominate 5G technology markets around the world. The SMIC N+1 node is designed to improve performance by 20%, reduce chip power consumption by 57%, reduce logic area by 63%, and reduce SoC area by 55%, in comparison to the SMIC's 14 nm FinFET node, Chinese press reports citing a statement from SMIC's co-CEO Dr. Liang Mengsong.

Dr. Liang confirmed that the N+1 7 nm node and its immediate successor will not use EUV lithography. N+1 will receive a refinement in the form of N+2, with modest chip power consumption improvement goals compared to N+1. This is similar to SMIC's 12 nm FinFET node being a refinement of its 14 nm FinFET node. Later down its lifecycle, once the company has got a handle of its EUV lithography equipment, N+2 could receive various photomasks, including a switch to EUV at scale.

China-based SMIC to Start Manufacture of 14 nm-class Chips in 2H 2019

As R&D costs for new, smaller manufacturing nodes grow at unprecedented rates across the industry, a new player is set to enter the 14 nm process manufacture competition: China-based SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation). The company is looking to throw its hat on the lucrative 14 nm process, filling its offerings portfolio under the 28 nm it currently offers as its denser process.

The company expects its 95% yield rate to offer its customers a trusted platform that might help it increase revenue for further investment on its 10 nm and 7 nm EUV nodes, which the company is pursuing (despite other industry veterans, such as former AMD-manufacturing arm GLOBALFOUNDRIES having ceased development on). Manufacturing technology that's competitive with the western world's, and that's developed in-country, is paramount for China's intention of reducing its dependence of foreign technology, which is why this is such a big step for the company and the company's aspirations.
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