It was only in 2018 when TSMC’s 7nm process started being utilized in iPhones. Now, less than two years later, the company plans to soon break ground on its 5nm and 3nm fab, the former of which is scheduled to start in the second half of 2020 and the latter sometime in 2022. This is according to TSMC’s senior vice president for fab operations, JK Wang.
This revelation is unlikely to come as a shock to many spectators.
In October, TSMC revealed that it was increasing its CapEx spending for both 7nm and 5nm nodes, with much of this increase aimed at outfitting fabs for 5nm production. Then, in November, the news that TSMC was adding 8,000 new jobs to its workforce as it focuses on manufacturing 3nm processes was broken by Taiwan News.
TSMC’s Fab 18, a 5nm production facility. Image Credit: TSMC.
Preparing for 5G
TSMC has previously gone on record to say that it is anticipating an “aggressive” 5G market in 2020.
And, if recent reports from Apple are anything to go by, TSMC’s foresight that the 5G market will take to the skies next year may be true. Apparently, the company is set to release four 5G iPhones in 2020 that will be powered by Apple’s first 5nm system-on-chip (SoC). This has seen chipmakers scrambling to better their processes in order to meet the inevitable demand for 5nm and 3nm architecture—5G processes require speed and power that only more efficient 5nm chips can deliver.
If smartphone manufacturers are to begin releasing their 5G models next year, TSMC may well see a ramping up of orders for their more efficient 5nm chipsets with integrated 5G modems.
That being said, recent analysis shows that Chinese fabless chip companies have reduced their volume of orders to TSMC. This is believed to be because their own customers, manufacturers of devices that use TSMC chip architecture, are doing their inventory checks for 2019. This may also be down to manufacturers experiencing a supply shortage of OLED displays, without which they cannot build their devices. This has a knock-on effect that hits Chinese fabless chip makers, and thus TSMC.
Still, the news that Apple plans to bring to market four 5G iPhone models in Q3/Q4 of 2020 is great news for the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer and its 5nm process.
Meanwhile, Intel is set to release yet another generation of 14nm CPUs.