Domestic tech giant aims bigger slice of 5G market
Samsung Electronics’ network business has given the green light to mass produce the radio frequency (RF) chips fitted into 5G base stations shipped out to clients all over the world, according to industry sources on June 24.
But the chips won’t be produced by Samsung’s foundry unit. Instead, Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC will be taking up the project.
“TSMC beats Samsung Foundry when it comes to specialized chips, so such business arrangements aren’t unheard of,” said one industry watcher on the condition of anonymity. “In particular, 28nm RF chip-making is difficult, and the quality hinges a lot on experience.”
Samsung Electronics placed the order with TSMC in April, according to the sources. Production is happening at the 28nm mmWAVE RF chip lines. The first products are due out next month, said sources close to the matter. They are projecting hat Samsung will enlist the next version of the chip to TSMC as well, this time at its 16nm lines.
RF chips are installed in network base stations and smartphones. Those inside the stations are smaller than for smartphones, and also trickier to produce.
Both types of chips support 28GHz and 39GHz, which were selected as the main 5G frequencies for Korea and the US. Chips supporting the 24GHz and 47GHz frequencies that will be allotted to the Europe and the US later on are to be developed before the year is over.
5G networks use high frequencies of 28GHz and above that are known as mmWAVE, and are able to transmit data at a speed that’s up to 10 times as much as LTE. A downside is its short carrying distance. It can also be easily affected by obstacles, which is why mmWAVE has been developed to go together with low frequencies of 6GHz or lower.
In November, the Korean tech giant had vowed to expand its market share in the global wireless network equipment to 20% by 2020. Now, with Huawei is temporarily out of the race due to the latest US sanctions, Samsung has an opportunity to prove it can improve data quality, according to market watchers.