[News] TSMC’s 3nm Capacity Hits 100,000 Wafers Next Year, Driven by New Projects

According to a report by Taiwan’s Money DJ, there’s good news from TSMC regarding its 3nm node. Sources within the supply chain have disclosed that the number of new chip designs using the 3nm process, known as “New Tape-Outs” (NTOs), has surged. It’s confirmed that customers including MediaTek, AMD, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm will follow in Apple’s footsteps for mass adoption of the 3nm process in the next year (2024) and the subsequent year. By the second half of next year, the monthly production capacity for the 3nm family, including N3E, will increase from the current approximately 60,000 wafers to 100,000 wafers.

According to publicly available information from TSMC, the company began volume production of its first 3nm process node, N3, in the second half of last year. The enhanced version of the 3nm process, N3E, started production in the latter half of this year. There will also be extensions to the 3nm process, including N3P, N3S, and N3X. This year, Apple’s high-end A17 Pro chip for its iPhones was based on the initial N3 process.

Both TSMC and MediaTek previously announced their collaboration, with MediaTek developing new Dimensity products using TSMC’s 3nm process. The design phase, known as “Tape Out,” has been successfully completed, and mass production is scheduled for next year. Industry reports indicate that aside from Apple and MediaTek, AMD, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm are also confirmed to adopt the N3 family of processes. Intel is also on the list, with mass production planned for the year after next.

TSMC’s first-generation 3nm process currently has a monthly production capacity of about 60,000 wafers, serving Apple as its primary customer. TSMC has initiated a program known as “Continuous Improvement Plan” (CIP) for the 3nm process, referred to as N3B in the industry. Supply chain sources suggest that N3B’s capacity will be integrated into subsequent extended process nodes, such as N3E, which is expected to attract more customers. It is estimated that the overall 3nm monthly production capacity will reach 100,000 wafers by the second half of next year.

(Photo credit: TSMC)


NVIDIA Surpasses Qualcomm at the The Latest Ranking of the World’s Top Ten IC Design

Fueled by an AI-driven inventory stocking frenzy across the supply chain, TrendForce reveals that Q2 revenue for the top 10 global IC design powerhouses soared to US $38.1 billion, marking a 12.5% quarterly increase. In this rising tide, NVIDIA seized the crown, officially dethroning Qualcomm as the world’s premier IC design house, while the remainder of the leaderboard remained stable.

AI charges ahead, buoying IC design performance amid a seasonal stocking slump

NVIDIA is reaping the rewards of a global transformation. Bolstered by the global demand from CSPs, internet behemoths, and enterprises diving into generative AI and large language models, NVIDIA’s data center revenue skyrocketed by a whopping 105%. A deluge of shipments, including the likes of their advanced Hopper and Ampere architecture HGX systems and the high-performing InfinBand, played a pivotal role. Beyond that, both gaming and professional visualization sectors thrived under the allure of fresh product launches. Clocking a Q2 revenue of US$11.33 billion (a 68.3% surge), NVIDIA has vaulted over both Qualcomm and Broadcom to seize the IC design throne.

Qualcomm’s Q2 took a hit as the Android smartphone sector grappled with dwindling demand and Apple’s modem pre-purchases resulted in a subdued seasonal rhythm. Consequently, their revenue slid by 9.7%, rounding off at about US$7.17 billion. Broadcom, while benefiting from AI-ignited demand for high-end switches and routers, faced headwinds with revenue drops in server storage, broadband, and wireless. The result was a second-quarter revenue that essentially mirrored the previous quarter at around US$6.9 billion.

AMD’s Q2 performance plateaued at about $5.36 billion, weighed down by a slump in gaming GPU sales and its embedded segment operations. Conversely, MediaTek, after several quarters of inventory recalibration, witnessed a resurgence with components like TV SoCs and Wi-Fi stabilizing. The added impetus of urgent TV orders and escalating shipments for mobile phones, smart platforms, and power management ICs boosted MediaTek’s Q2 to a solid US$3.2 billion.

Marvell, though buoyed by AI deployments in data centers, faced headwinds with a decline in On-Premise Servers (enterprise private clouds). End-user demand remained frail, and with sectors like data centers, telecom infrastructure, and enterprise networking facing revenue drops, Marvell’s Q2 took a 1.4% hit, culminating at roughly $1.33 billion.

Taiwan’s IC design stalwart Novatek flourished as customers replenished TV-related inventories and ushered in novel products such as OLED DDI. Realtek, drawing strength from supply chain restocking of PC/NB-centric ICs, reported quarterly growths of 24.7% and 32.6%, respectively. Yet, without substantial signs of a holistic revival in end-sales and inventory restocking, growth in H2 seems set to face challenges.

Will Semiconductor secured the ninth spot with a Q2 revenue of $528 million, registering a modest decline of about 1.9%. Hot on its heels is the US-based power IC maestro, MPS, with its Q2 revenue tallying up to $441 million—a slip of approximately 2.2%.

Peering into Q3, while inventory levels across companies paint a rosier picture than H1, a pervasive end-user demand slump urges caution. However, a silver lining emerges with CSPs, internet titans, and private firms flocking to generative AI and large language models. As these high-value AI offerings gain traction, TrendForce projects that the top ten global IC design giants will continue their double-digit ascent in Q3, potentially reaching record-breaking figures.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at


[News] Apple’s 5G Chip Dreams Crushed, TSMC Wins Big

According to the news from ChinaTimes, Qualcomm announced on the 11th that it has reached a three-year agreement with Apple to supply 5G communication chips for Apple’s smartphones from 2024 to 2026. This also implies that Apple’s efforts to develop its own 5G modem chips may fall through, and the contract manufacturer TSMC stands to benefit the most.

Qualcomm did not disclose the value of this deal but mentioned that the terms of the agreement are similar to previous ones. Previous supply agreements have been highly profitable for Qualcomm but costly for Apple. According to UBS estimates from last month, Qualcomm’s sales of modem chips to Apple in the previous fiscal year amounted to $7.26 billion, accounting for approximately 16% of the company’s revenue.

This also highlights that Apple’s progress in developing modem chips may not be as expected, leading to a delay in their use in their flagship smartphones. Currently, Apple’s iPhones use 5G modem chips from Qualcomm.

Only a few companies worldwide have the capability to produce communication chips, including Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung. In 2019, Apple acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion, along with 2,200 employees and a series of patents. Intel faced difficulties in developing 5G modem chips, resulting in annual losses of around $1 billion.

The market expects Apple to gradually reduce its reliance on third-party chip suppliers. Qualcomm originally estimated that by 2023, their 5G chips would make up only 20% of iPhones. However, Qualcomm’s CFO stated in November of the previous year that “most” of Apple’s phones in 2023 would contain their chips.


Huawei’s Smartphone Showcases China’s Semiconductor Self-Sufficiency: : Impact on Taiwan’s Supply Chain

On August 29, 2023, Huawei quietly launched its new smartphone, the Huawei Mate 60 Pro, on its official website without the usual fanfare associated with new product releases. Unlike previous events or those held by other brands, Huawei chose to communicate with consumers solely through a letter. What intrigued the market most was the specification of the new device’s System-on-Chip (SoC). Initially, Huawei did not provide any official information about it. However, the release of this new smartphone demonstrates China’s determination to achieve semiconductor self-sufficiency.

Key Insights from TrendForce:

  • Overcoming U.S. Sanctions, Huawei Makes a Comeback

In the past, Huawei secured its position as the second-largest player in the global smartphone market by leveraging the differentiating advantage of its in-house developed Kirin SoC chips. However, since May 2019, Huawei has been affected by U.S. sanctions. In September 2020, TSMC, which previously manufactured chips for Huawei, announced the cessation of production. With no supply from TSMC, Huawei’s inventory of 5G chips was depleted by the third quarter of 2022.

Unable to acquire high-end chips, Huawei’s market share in the smartphone industry saw a significant decline. The company could only source 4G chips not subject to U.S. sanctions from Qualcomm or UNISOC. It was believed that U.S. sanctions would severely impact Huawei’s smartphone supply chain and push the company into a dire situation. However, upon analyzing Huawei’s latest release, it is evident that the new smartphone not only features an in-house developed SoC chip by Huawei’s semiconductor subsidiary HiSilicon but also incorporates components and designs from various Chinese manufacturers.

  • China’s Semiconductor Self-Sufficiency Continues to Strengthen, Minimal Impact on Taiwanese Supply Chain Expected

China’s pursuit of semiconductor self-sufficiency has become an inevitable outcome of industry development. Although Huawei has not provided detailed specifications for the SoC chip in the Mate 60 Pro, it is speculated that this chip likely uses SMIC’s N+2 process. Due to sanctions, SMIC has been unable to obtain essential EUV equipment. Furthermore, based on the chip’s performance benchmarking, it is comparable to Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 888 chip released in 2021. This suggests that the SoC’s process technology likely falls in the range of 7-14nm, which still lags behind current advanced processes. Nevertheless, this achievement underscores China’s commitment to semiconductor self-sufficiency.

As China gains the ability to independently develop and produce chips, the question arises of whether other Chinese smartphone brands, apart from Huawei, will begin their own chip development efforts. Will this development impact Taiwanese IC design house and foundries that previously held related orders? MediaTek, for instance, primarily supplies chips to brands such as OPPO and vivo. Given that Huawei competes strongly with OPPO and vivo in the smartphone market, it is unlikely that these two brands will entrust their smartphone core SoCs to Huawei’s HiSilicon. Additionally, developing proprietary chips comes with significant costs. Therefore, under these circumstances, it is expected that OPPO and vivo will maintain their partnerships with MediaTek. MediaTek’s chip designs can also utilize TSMC’s advanced processes, giving OPPO and vivo a key competitive advantage against Huawei. Consequently, it is inferred that as long as there is a significant gap between the processes and yields of SMIC and TSMC, Taiwanese foundries will not be significantly affected.

(Photo credit: Huawei)


[News] IC Design Chip Tape-Out Expected to Rebound at the Earliest Next Year

According to Taiwan’s Economic Daily, the consumer market is experiencing starkly low demand, causing IC design firms primarily relying on mature processes, such as those in driver ICs, power management ICs, CMOS image sensors (CIS), and microcontrollers (MCUs), to adopt a notably cautious approach in placing orders. Some manufacturers are hesitating to place orders due to persistently high inventory levels.

The industry consensus is that IC design companies are expected to increase their orders in mature processes, with the earliest effects possibly emerging by 2024, implying that the mature process market conditions might not improve significantly until the end of this year.

The consumer market entered a period of economic downturn in the latter half of last year, which in turn affected industries such as PCs, smartphones, and networking. This not only led to a surge in inventory levels for IC design firms but also significantly curtailed the momentum for chip tape-out. Looking ahead to the second half of this year, while inventory levels across various sectors have largely returned to normal, chip tape-out for Q3 have notably declined compared to Q2.

In particular, demand for high-speed I/O in the PC sector and Board Management Controller for data centers remains notably weak. The supply chain indicates that PC demand for the second quarter, driven by advanced stocking, has dampened the typical peak season effect for the latter half of the year. This trend is evident across desktop PCs, laptops, and Chromebooks.”

As for the smartphone sector, after various research institutions revised down this year’s smartphone market size, the supply chain’s chip tape-out momentum has cooled down significantly. Only Qualcomm has increased its tape-out momentum to semiconductor foundries in the first half of the year, while MediaTek continues to adhere to a conservative strategy as of now.

(Photo credit: SMIC)

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