Chinese foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) is to get a helping hand to develop a production-class 28nm process from Qualcomm Technologies.
Qualcomm said in a statement on Thursday (3 July) that in addition to manufacturing on older nodes, the two companies are now “working together in connection with 28nm process technology and wafer manufacturing services in China to manufacture Qualcomm Snapdragon processors…This collaboration will help accelerate SMIC’s process maturity and capacity, and will also make SMIC one of the first semiconductor foundries in China to offer production locally for some of Qualcomm Technologies’ latest Snapdragon processors on [the] 28nm node, [using] both polySiON and high-k metal gate”.
Qualcomm added: “SMIC will work with Qualcomm Technologies in bringing new 28nm design-ins and products for the growing mobile communication industry. Going forward, SMIC will also extend its technology offerings on 3DIC and RF front-end wafer manufacturing in support of Qualcomm Technologies as its Snapdragon product portfolio continues to expand.”
Potential IP issues
Although the communications chipmaker will gain a second source for 28nm-based products over which it will have a high degree of technological influence, it is unclear the degree to which Qualcomm will need to redesign Snapdragon SoCs currently being fabbed at TSMC to take advantage of the SMIC process. The Taiwanese foundry sued SMIC in the early 2000s over trade secrets, which culminated in a patent cross-licence deal between the two foundries – but this was originally scheduled to only run for five years to the end of 2010. Although the foundry would have developed technology well before production, TSMC did not ramp up manufacturing of 28nm until late in 2011.
TSMC confirmed to Tech Design Forum that it does not have a current patent cross-licence agreement with SMIC.
Tzu-Yin Chiu, CEO and executive director of SMIC, said: “This step forward demonstrates SMIC’s capabilities and commitments on bringing up the needed advanced node technologies for addressing customers’ demands and product roadmaps. With Qualcomm Technologies’ support, we are confident that our 28nm technologies will become one of the most important growth drivers for the company. We expect that the 28nm product life cycle longevity will exceed previous nodes, which will help better position SMIC to service the needs of Qualcomm Technologies, as well as others.”
Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, said: “We look forward to working with SMIC on bringing up its 28nm production in China and executing on our regional supply chain strategy. With SMIC becoming a more important supplier in our global operations, this collaboration will help further our manufacturing footprint and services in China, one of the world’s largest mobile consumer opportunities.”