Samsung Electronics has created something of a buzz in the semiconductor world with the unveiling of what is regarded as an aggressive roadmap toward more advanced chip manufacturing processes.
Although much of the focus was placed on the South Korean chipmaker's plans to deploy a new transistor structure called "gate all around" (GAA) in its upcoming 3 nanometer (3nm) lithography process, Samsung also set out its ambition to become market leader in the 5G semiconductor market, targeting sub-6GHz to mmWave applications.
Samsung introduced the newest RF technology based on the 8-nanometer (8nm) process in June, noting that the foundry technology is expected to provide a "one chip solution" for 5G with support for multi-channel and multi-antenna chip designs.
As explained at the time by Hyung Jin Lee, master of foundry technology development team at Samsung Electronics, "as 5G mmWave expands, Samsung's 8nm RF will be a great solution for customers looking for long battery life and excellent signal quality on compact mobile devices."
Samsung also provides 28nm- and 14nm-based RF. It boasted that it has shipped more than 500 million mobile RF chips for premium smartphones since 2017.
Meanwhile, Samsung said it will start adopting the GAA design in fabricating compact 3nm chips in the first half of 2022, according to Choi Si-young, president of Samsung's foundry business, during the annual Samsung Foundry Forum. The second generation of 3nm is expected in 2023. The chipmaker then aims to mass produce 2nm chips built on the GAA by 2025.
Samsung said the 3nm chips promise a 30% performance increase, a 50% power consumption reduction, and a 35% decline in area compared to 5nm chips.
Samsung also introduced the upgraded fin field-effect transistor (FinFET)-based 17nm process with the aim of delivering more cost-efficient, applicable products. Samsung said its latest 17nm process can reduce the chip area by 43%, improve energy efficiency by 49%, and increase performance by 39% compared to the 28nm process.
Samsung has been the biggest investor in chip manufacturing for the past decade, taking over from Intel, the leader going back to the early 1990s. In May, it started work on building a sixth domestic chip-production line in Pyeongtaek, expected to be fully operational by the second half of next year.
However, rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) is set to spend a record $100 billion over the next three years to expand capacity to meet the huge surge in global demand.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading