Q’comm Reportedly Taps TSMC's 7nm

Release time:2017-06-14
source:EE Times

Qualcomm will switch back to TSMC to make its 7nm Snapdragon parts after giving its 10nm business to Samsung, according to a report in ET News, a South Korean publication. If correct, the switch will be a huge boost for TSMC and could cause a significant drop in Samsung’s foundry business in 2018.

Qualcomm declined to comment on what a spokeswoman characterized as rumors. Samsung and TSMC did not reply to requests for comment.

The report said Qualcomm started working on its 7nm Snapdragon SoC using TSMC tools in the middle of 2016. It is expected to announce the chip late this year or early next year “after first test wafer is manufactured from TSMC in September and after it is done with designing [its] package and verification process,” the report said.

Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon 835 made in Samsung’s 10nm process at CES in January. The article estimated the Snapdragon 835 business represents about $1.78 billion or 40 percent of Samsung’s foundry revenue.

The article suggested Qualcomm is making the switch for two reasons. Samsung is late with its 7nm node, and the Korean giant lacks the chip-stacking technology TSMC is using in Apple’s current iPhone 7 handset SoCs. TSMC released its first 7nm process design kit late last year while Samsung’s first beta 7nm PDK is due in July, it said.

Initially Samsung said in late 2016 it would use extreme ultraviolet lithography at 7nm. However those systems now are currently expected to take until 2019 to be ready for limited commercial use, according to Globalfoundries and others. More recently, Samsung announced plans for an 8nm node using immersion steppers.

“TSMC is ahead of Samsung in being in risk production at 7nm. Samsung spent more time developing EUV for 7nm,” said Mike Demler, an analyst for the Linley Group.

In addition, TSMC uses InFo, a fan-out wafer-level packaging technique with Apple’s smartphone SoCs. Samsung is working on similar technology but it is not expected to be ready for at least a year, the article said.

Samsung will make its next-generation smartphone SoCs in the 8nm process. A separate SoC for its premium Galaxy Note line will be made in Samsung’s 7nm node, the article added.

Apple initially made all its iPhone SoCs at Samsung despite an epic patent battle between the companies. Over the last few generations it tested and ultimately moved all that foundry business to TSMC.

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Qualcomm added an ultra-low-power co-processor running a bare-bones RTOS to its latest chipset for smartwatches to extend battery life. The new 3100 chipset debuts two days before Apple is expected to announce a new version of its Apple Watch, the current leader in smartwatches and wearables generally.Qualcomm claims that its Snapdragon Wear 3100 can deliver four to 12 hours longer battery life than its prior chipset. It can work for a month on a typical smartwatch battery if Google’s Wear OS is turned off, said the chip vendor.Power savings come mainly from hosting basic watch functions on a new 40-MHz Arm M0 chip running at 0.6 V in a homegrown software environment described as a basic scheduler. In sleep mode, the 21-mm2 QC1110 draws just 130 µA, compared to about 1.2 mA for a typical Cortex-A7 used to run Wear OS.Qualcomm estimates that consumers use the interactive functions that require Wear OS only 5% of the time, opening the door to power savings. Its main processor running Wear OS now uses four A7s running at 1.2 GHz, up from a single A7 in the previous chipset.Users can switch in software between Wear OS and basic smartwatch modes to conserve battery life. In addition, the chip’s power management software can automatically shut down the A7 host and move work to the co-processor after a period of inactivity.Qualcomm had to design a custom SRAM block to support the co-processor’s near-threshold operation. The co-processor also contains a custom block to listen for and detect wake words from a voice assistant.The 3100 comes in versions supporting LTE, GPS, or Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The 3100 host processor fits in a 10 x 10-mm package stacked with up to 1-GByte LPDDR3 memory. It supports a flash eMMC module of 8 Gbytes or more.The chipset includes a new power management IC and a power amp made in a GaAs process. Prior chips used a CMOS power amp that supported envelope tracking but was less power-efficient.Next page: Still early days for wearables sectorA near-threshold controller is at the heart of the latest Snapdragon chipset for wearables. Click to enlarge. (Image: Qualcomm)It’s still early days for a smartwatch market that ships about 50 million units a year and is expected to nearly triple in three years. Last year, Apple’s success — in part with its first models with built-in LTE — pushed it into the lead in the overall wearables market.Apple shipped about 17.7 million smartwatches last year of a total wearables market estimated at 115 million units, according to International Data Corp. Xiaomi and Fitbit were in a near tie for second place, shipping more than 15 million units each, including smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other devices.In smartwatches, Samsung runs a distant second to Apple with devices based on the Tizen OS. Qualcomm claims that its chips run 80% of Wear OS devices, which trail Apple and Samsung in smartwatches.“Apple has done a good job creating a good product and awareness, but [the Apple Watch] only works with iPhones, and we expect Android and iOS users to buy” 3100-based products, said Pankaj Kedia, who heads Qualcomm’s wearables group.Growth potential is huge, said Kedia, considering that smartwatches still represent a small fraction of the 1.4 billion watches sold last year and the 1.5 billion smartphones sold annually.Qualcomm counts among its smartwatch customers Asus, Huawei, LG, and more than a dozen fashion watch vendors. It expects to add new names to its list with the 3100, which is shipping now and should be in consumer products for the holiday season.
2018-09-11 00:00 reading:352
Qualcomm Technologies has unveiled the world’s first fully-integrated 5G NR millimeter wave (mmWave) and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices.The QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family pair with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem to deliver modem-to-antenna capabilities across several spectrum bands, in a very compact footprint that is intended for integration in mobile devices. “This announcement concerning the first commercial 5G NR mmWave antenna modules and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices represents a major milestone for the mobile industry. Qualcomm's early investment in 5G has allowed us to deliver a working mobile mmWave solution that was previously thought unattainable, as well as a fully-integrated sub-6 GHz RF solution. Now, these type of modem-to-antenna solutions, spanning both mmWave and sub-6 spectrum bands, make mobile 5G networks and devices, ready for large scale commercialisation,” said Cristiano Amon, President, Qualcomm. To date, mmWave signals have not been used for mobile wireless communications due to the technical and design challenges they pose, all of which impact nearly every aspect of device engineering, including materials, form-factor, industrial design, thermals, and regulatory requirements for radiated power. As such, many in the mobile industry considered mmWave highly impractical for mobile devices and networks, and thus unlikely to materialise. The QTM052 mmWave antenna modules work in tandem with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, as a comprehensive system, to help overcome the formidable challenges associated with mmWave. They support advanced beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking technologies, improving the range and reliability of mmWave signals. They feature an integrated 5G NR radio transceiver, power management IC, RF front-end components and phased antenna array.They support up to 800 MHz of bandwidth in the 26.5-29.5 GHz (n257), as well as the entire 27.5-28.35 GHz (n261) and 37-40 GHz (n260) mmWave bands. Most importantly, the QTM052 modules integrate all these capabilities in a very compact footprint, such that up to four of them can be integrated in a smartphone. This allows OEMs to continue evolving the industrial design of their mobile devices, offering attractive form factors combined with the benefits of extremely high speeds from mmWave 5G NR, and making such devices available for launch as early as 2019. While mmWave is best suited for providing 5G coverage in dense urban areas and crowded indoor environments, broad 5G NR coverage will be achieved in sub-6 GHz spectrum bands. As such, the QPM56xx RF module family (including the QPM5650, QPM5651, QDM5650, and QDM5652) is designed to allow smartphones based on the Snapdragon X50 5G modem to support 5G NR in sub-6 GHz RF bands.The QPM5650 and QPM5651 feature integrated 5G NR PA/LNA/Switch and filtering subsystem. The QDM5650 and QDM5652 feature integrated 5G NR LNA/switch and filtering subsystem for diversity and MIMO support.All four modules offer integrated SRS switching required for optimum massive MIMO applications and support for 3.3-4.2 GHz (n77), 3.3-3.8 GHz (n78) and 4.4-5.0 GHz (n79) sub-6 bands. These sub-6 GHz RF modules provide mobile device makers with a viable path to delivering on the promise of 5G NR massive MIMO technology in mobile devices.Both the QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module family are now sampling to customers. 
2018-07-24 00:00 reading:355
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