Most people will be surprised by this but after working in Taiwan for many years I quite expected it. Intel Announced that MediaTek will use Intel Foundry Services for FinFET based smart edge device chips. MediaTek will start with Intel 16nm technology which originated from the legendary 22nm, the first commercial FinFET process. It’s equivalent to TSMC 16nm. Once Intel 14nm capacity frees up I would expect it will become available to foundry customers as well. The current version of Intel 14nm is equivalent to TSMC 10nm. Intel 10nm is now called Intel 7 which competes with TSMC N7. It is nice that that foundry process names are finally syncing up, much less confusing for the mass media.
In the early days of the fabless transformation having multiple foundry sources was key to getting capacity and competitive wafer pricing. One time I worked on a chip that was taped-out at TSMC then moved to UMC, SMIC, and Chartered for high volume manufacturing. Qualcomm and MediaTek were both experts at multi sourcing chips up until the FinFET era. Qualcomm moved a lot of capacity to Samsung with mixed results. MediaTek, on the other hand, partnered closely with TSMC and gained serious SOC market share over Qualcomm. In fact, the last numbers I saw had MediaTek beating Qualcomm at their own game in the smartphone market.
Having worked with both Qualcomm and MediaTek during my 40 year semiconductor career I can tell you these are two very different companies. The advantage MediaTek has is they are exceptionally good at pivoting. MediaTek is also great at customer collaboration, especially in China, which explains their lead in the smartphone market.
“As one of the world’s leading fabless chip designers powering more than 2 billion devices a year, MediaTek is a terrific partner for IFS as we enter our next phase of growth,” said IFS President Randhir Thakur. “We have the right combination of advanced process technology and geographically diverse capacity to help MediaTek deliver the next billion connected devices across a range of applications.”
NS Tsai, corporate senior vice president of Platform Technology & Manufacturing Operations at MediaTek, said, “MediaTek has long adopted a multi-sourcing strategy. We have an existing 5G data card business partnership with Intel, and now extend our relationship to manufacturing smart edge devices through Intel Foundry Services. With its commitment to major capacity expansions, IFS provides value to MediaTek as we seek to create a more diversified supply chain. We look forward to building a long-term partnership to serve the fast-growing demand for our products from customers across the globe.”
I would consider this great customer win to be part of the “Not TSMC” market which Samsung has been living off for the past few years. Moving forward the Not TSMC market will continue to grow for Intel Foundry with the stumbling of Samsung and the tight capacity and higher wafer pricing at TSMC. In order for the chip business to thrive there must be multiple manufacturing sources at the leading edge. No one knows this better than Qualcomm and MediaTek so I quite expect Qualcomm to be another big customer to collaborate with Intel Foundry, absolutely. We can make a list of other potential IFS customers in the comments section, absolutely.
IFS was established in 2021 to help meet the surging global demand for advanced semiconductor manufacturing capacity. IFS is differentiated from other foundry offerings with a combination of leading-edge process and packaging technology, a world-class IP portfolio, and committed capacity in the United States and Europe. IFS customers will reap the benefits of Intel’s recently announced factory expansions at existing sites, as well as plans for major new investments in greenfield sites in Ohio and Germany.