Intel, Globalfoundries, and Samsung reportedly competing for contract to produce Huawei's Kirin ARM SoCs
DigiTimes reports that HiSilicon, a Huawei subsidiary which produces the Kirin SoC, is wanting to diversify their chip sources for their upcoming 7 nm processors. HiSilicon doesn't own any fabrication facilities of their own and is currently reliant on TSMC for 100 percent of the production.
One of the critical factors behind this desire to diversity will be the claims that TSMC has received a contract to produce 7 nm chips for Qualcomm. HiSilicon would have concerns that in addition to being the sole producer of Apple’s A9X, A10 Fusion, A10X Fusion, and A11 Bionic SoC this additional production for Qualcomm might lead TSMC to deprioritize Huawei’s Kirin chips, causing production constraints.
DigiTimes sources specify that although Samsung, Globalfoundries, and Intel are competing for the contract, Globalfoundries is more likely to be the successful candidate. Samsung is reportedly using access to OLED, DRAM, and NAND flash as incentives for using their facilities, but they are a significant competitor to Huawei in consumer electronics. Intel is offering their 10 nm fabrication process, which achieves a higher density of about 100 million transistors per mm2, which sources say is similar to the 7 nm processes from TSMC and Samsung. However, this could cause variability problems between manufacturers, and not upgrading to a smaller lithography could hurt customer perception of Kirin.
This leaves Globalfoundries who could purchase usage rights to the patents they need from IBM to produce chips using a 7 nm process, and would likely fit the best with HiSilicon’s intentions to preserve their existing relationship with TSMC by also still using them for 7 nm chip production.