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Samsung Electronics

Samsung beats TSMC to win new Qualcomm order to make mobile chips

Oct 06, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung Electronics Co. has clinched a deal with Qualcomm Technologies Inc. to manufacture 5G-capable mobile application processors designed for mid-range smartphones, the latest in a series of high-profile deals for its foundry business.

Under the agreement, Samsung will make the chipsets, known as the Snapdragon 750, using its 8 nanometer technology, for Qualcomm, according to semiconductor industry sources on Oct. 6. The value of the deal was unknown.

The processor is used in Chinese handset-maker Xiaomi’s Mi 10 Lite 5G smartphones launched in late September. Samsung is also expected to use the Qualcomm chipset in its Galaxy A42 smartphone set to be rolled out later this year.
Advanced chips made by Samsung Electronics
The news comes less than a month after the Korean tech giant secured a 1 trillion won ($844 million) foundry deal with Qualcomm to make the Snapdragon 875 chips used in high-end 5G smartphones. Samsung will make the chipsets with its cutting-edge 5 nm technology using the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) fabrication process.

Industry watchers said Samsung’s successive deal with Qualcomm signals the Korean company’s technological prowess as it beat foundry market leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) to win the orders. TSMC and Samsung are known to be the only chipmakers able to mass-produce chips at competitive pricing with less than 10 nm process.

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Samsung uses the 8 nm process to make Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 750 chips because the technology allows it to manufacture power-efficient chipsets at a relatively low price compared to 7 nm and finer processing technology.

The only major chipmaker to use the 8 nm process, Samsung also signed an agreement in early September to fabricate Nvidia Corp.’s new RTX 30 series gaming processing chips, using that technology.

“Samsung’s use of 8 nanometer process proves its technological edge as well as its marketing power,” said a semiconductor industry official.
Samsung is known to be spending 10 trillion won ($8.6 billion) a year to develop chip foundry technology and purchase related equipment to close in on its bigger rival TSMC. The Korean company was a latecomer to the foundry industry and initially lacked the extensive relationships with existing global fabless companies enjoyed by frontrunner TSMC.

To narrow the gap with the market leader, Samsung is also advancing its semiconductor packaging process.

According to market researcher TrendForce, Samsung had 17.4% share in the global foundry market in the third quarter of the year, following TSMC’s 53.9%. Industry tracker Omdia forecasts the global foundry market to grow to $94.4 billion in 2024 from $61.8 billion in 2018.

Samsung’s foundry business is expected to have posted $3.67 billion in revenue in the third quarter of this year, according to a TrendForce estimate.

The industry expects Samsung’s share of the global foundry market to rise above 20% in 2021.

Write to Jeong-Soo Hwang at hjs@hankyung.com

Edited by In-Soo Nam

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