Samsung’s slowdown is in part due to expectations TSMC is grabbing most of the business making Apple A-series processors in the new iPhone 7.
Samsung is expected to fall to fifth place among foundries this year with revenues of $2.79 billion while Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. nudges into fourth place with $2.88 billion, according to IC Insights.
Samsung’s slowdown is in part due to expectations foundry leader TSMC is grabbing most of the business making Apple A-series processors in the new iPhone 7. The new 10nm process is expected to be used first to make Samsung Exynos SoCs for its Galaxy 8.
Figure 1: Volumes of 10/7nm wafers are expected to skyrocket to 2.2 million by 2025. (Source: International Business Strategies)
Shanghai-based SMIC is on pace to grow revenues 29% this year while Samsung is only expected to grow about 4% from 2015, according to IC Insights. SMIC’s growth is in trailing edge planar technologies. The China foundry announced in June 2015 plans to co-develop a 14nm FinFET process with Qualcomm and Imec.
Samsung is the last of the big foundries to give details on its plans at 10nm. TSMC and Intel announced—in September and in August respectively—they are ramping 10nm processes that will be in production next year. Globalfoundries announced in September will skip the 10nm node which it said does not push triple-patterning lithography to its limits, driving to a 7nm process it aims to have in production in late 2018.
Intel said its 10nm process will have sport a 54nm gate pitch, packing transistors more densely than any competitors—a claim most analysts accept. Foundries use of names such as 10nm no longer points to any specific metric, so mileage is expected to vary considerably between companies.
TSMC suggested its 10nm node will be fairly short lived compared to its 7nm process which could have limited availability in 2017. Indeed, analysts suggest TSMC’s 10nm node is a slight, quick turn of the crank aimed to win the business of making the A-series SoCs in Apple’s iPhone 8.
Figure 2: IBS provided details of its 10/7nm wafer shipment forecasts.
“Definitions of leading-edge processes are all over the technology roadmap... [but] I believe Intel's 10nm process has higher density circuitry and interconnect spacing than the foundries, including Samsung,” said Rob Lineback, a senior analyst at market watcher IC Insights.
The market watcher expects total foundry revenues to expand 8% this year to $54.07 billion.
International Business Strategies (IBS) estimates 2.2 million 10/7 nm wafers will be sold in 2025 with an average wafer price of $8,000 creating a $17.6 billion market up from first year sales of 322,000 wafers in 2017. Key customers will include processor vendors AMD, Apple, Huawei’s HiSilicon, MediaTek, NVidia, Qualcomm and Xilinx as well as internal consumption in Samsung.
“It is strategically important for Samsung to have leadership process technologies as well as large wafer fabrication capacity or it will need to buy wafers from TSMC for its smartphones as well as other key products,” said Handel Jones, chief executive of IBS.