MOBILE CHIP DESIGNER Qualcomm has announced a partnership deal with Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) to develop 28nm process technology by the middle of the year.
The pair have worked out a cunning plan to enable more features to be integrated into smaller chips with a high level of cost efficiency, they claim, and hope it will accelerate the expansion of wireless into new market segments.
Qualcomm says it wants everything fabbed smaller and using lower power, so it plans to migrate directly from 45nm to the 28nm process node as soon as possible.
Qualcomm has been partnered with TSMC for ages and the two firms' relationship is something of a model for how a chip design house can work with its outsourced foundry. Qualcomm and TSMC worked closely on both 65nm and 45nm technologies and hope that things will continue to go smoothly as they move together into low-power, low-leakage 28nm designs for high-volume manufacturing.
It will mean delivering up to twice the circuit density of previous manufacturing nodes, but the 28nm technology allows semiconductors that power mobile devices to do far more with less power.
Jim Clifford, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies said, "Qualcomm's integrated fabless manufacturing model and migration to smaller geometries will allow us to continue enabling the best mobile user experience possible on handsets, smartphones and smartbook devices."
The technology involves working on both high-k metal gate (HKMG) 28HP and silicon oxynitride (SiON) 28LP technologies. Qualcomm expects to tape out its first commercial 28nm products halfway through this year.
Longer term, however, the announcement came a day or so after Qualcomm signed a separate deal with Global Foundries, so the US chip designer won't have all its eggs in one basket, so to speak, and TSMC can't have failed to note that it's going to have to perform well to keep part of Qualcomm's business. µ
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