[News] Samsung’s Discount Strategy Challenges TSMC as the Battle for 2nm Orders Heats Up

2023-12-12 Semiconductors editor

Both TSMC and Samsung plan to start production on the 2nm process in 2025, triggering an early battle for related orders. According to sources reported by the Financial Times (FT), Qualcomm intends to shift production of its next-generation high-end mobile chips from TSMC to Samsung’s 2nm process. Samsung, offering substantial discounts, is aggressively pursuing orders from major players like NVIDIA, posing a challenge to TSMC’s dominance.

According to reports citing insider information, TSMC has showcased its 2nm prototype test results to major clients like Apple and NVIDIA. Additionally, sources indicate that Samsung is not only planning to introduce its 2nm prototype but is also offering discounted prices, attracting interest from prominent clients, including NVIDIA.

The report highlights that Qualcomm is planning to use Samsung’s “SF2” (2nm) process for the next generation of high-end smartphone chips. Samsung, as the first company to globally mass-produce 3nm (SF3) chips last year, is also the pioneer in adopting the new Gate-All-Around (GAA) transistor architecture.

Samsung indicated that, “We have fully deployed and can mass-produce SF2 in 2025. Since we are the first company to enter and transform the GAA architecture, we hope that the progress from SF3 to SF2 will be relatively smooth.”

However, insiders have disclosed that Samsung’s yield for the most basic 3nm chips is only 60%, significantly below customer expectations. Moreover, when producing chips with complexity equivalent to Apple’s A17 Pro or NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs), the yield may further decrease.

Global giants such as Qualcomm and NVIDIA follow a diversified wafer foundry strategy, but they still rely heavily on TSMC for now. Previously, NVIDIA’s Chief Financial Officer, Colette Kress, hinted during the UBS Global Technology Conference that NVIDIA may consider Intel for the production of its next-generation chips, potentially breaking away from the exclusive partnership with TSMC for AI chips.

Now, Qualcomm is also exploring collaboration with Samsung for the 2nm process, intensifying the pressure on TSMC to address potential order losses from two major clients in advanced semiconductor manufacturing.

TSMC, on the other hand, informed the Financial Times that the development progress of its 2nm process is proceeding smoothly, and it is scheduled for production in 2025. When launched, it will represent the industry’s most advanced semiconductor technology in terms of density and energy efficiency.

In a previous investor conference, TSMC stated that there is significant customer interest and engagement in 2nm for high-speed computing and smartphone applications. It is expected that 2nm, when introduced in 2025, will be the most advanced semiconductor technology in the industry, comparable or even superior to 3nm at the same stage.

TSMC plans to launch the 2nm backside power rail solution in the second half of 2025, with mass production scheduled for 2026.

Besides TSMC and Samsung actively advancing towards 2nm and more advanced processes, Intel has also joined the competition. The Financial Times characterizes this race for the 2nm process as “shaping the future of a USD 500 billion industry.”

Intel is progressing along its previously set 5 process nodes in a four-year trajectory. The Intel 4 process is ready for mass production, and the Intel 3 process is planned for launch later this year. Intel CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has previously showcased the Intel 20A wafer, which is expected to enter the pre-production phase in the first half of next year. The Intel 18A process is scheduled for mass production in the second half of 2024.

Read more

(Photo credit: Samsung)

Please note that this article cites information from Financial Times.