Semiconductors and Components

SMIC Makes Snapdragon, Opens Shenzhen Wafer Fab

18 December 2014

Five months after the announcement that Qualcomm was working to transfer its Snapdragon processor to a 28nm CMOS processor at Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (Shanghai, China) the Chinese foundry has announced successful production.

And SMIC has also announced that its 200mm wafer fab in Shenzhen has begun operations. The wafer fab is a "more-than-Moore" fab and will be used to make image sensors, logic and power management ICs and other consumer and communication ICs. SMIC said its roll out plan calls for the fab to reach an installed capacity of 10,000 wafer starts per month by the end of 2014 and double that by the end of 2015, SMIC.

Shenzhen is a strong region for IC design and for electronic equipment manufacturing but is weak in IC manufacturing, which cannot keep up with local demand, SMIC said and arguing that is Shenzhen facility was intended to help meet this demand.

"Shenzhen is a place of strategic importance for China's IC industry, as the leader of domestic IC manufacturing enterprises. SMIC's arrival will play an important role in completing Shenzhen's semiconductor industry chain," said Tzu-Yin Chiu, CEO of SMIC, in a statement.

Meanwhile SMIC announced that it has fabricated Snapdragon 410 processors for Qualcomm on its 28nm CMOS. Although not at the very leading-edge of Qualcomm's range, the Snapdragon 410 is 64-bit capable and offers an integrated LTE modem as well as 1080p high definition display handling.

The development is a milestone for SMIC as it becomes the first Chinese foundry able to produce low-power mobile processor at an advanced manufacturing node.

"Our collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies has been key in helping us to accelerate our 28nm technology development and achieve this key milestone within six months from the commencement of the collaboration. The maturity of our 28nm process represents a significant long-term growth driver for SMIC in support of Qualcomm Technologies and our customers globally," said Tzu-Yin Chiu, CEO of SMIC.

Trouble in China

Some observers have indicated that Qualcomm's involvement with SMIC and moving some 28nm production there from TSMC may be an attempt to find favor in China and soften a blow that is expected when the China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) concludes its investigation into Qualcomm's licensing practises under Chinese anti-monopoly law.

Earlier this year, alongside financial results, Qualcomm warned investors that the company could fall into loss as a result of the investigation but that it was not known when the investigation would conclude. Qualcomm has also been using its venture capital arm to invest in Chinese startups.

"SMIC plays an important role in Qualcomm Technologies' supply chain in allowing us to expand our manufacturing footprint in China to better address the growing need for high-performance and low-power mobile devices with customers in the region and around the world," was what Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, said in a statement issued by SMIC.

SMIC's third quarter financial results showed a $47.5 million net profit on quarterly sales revenue of $521.6 million, up 2.0 percent sequentially.

Related links and articles:

IHS semiconductor manufacturing research

News articles:

China Launches Antitrust Investigation Against Qualcomm

Qualcomm Invests $40 Million in Chinese Startups

Qualcomm's China Troubles Cloud $6.8 Billion Quarter

Qualcomm, SMIC Partner for 28nm Snapdragon Production

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