Samsung Electronics’ aggressive move to become a leader in the foundry business seems to be ruffling a few feathers in the semiconductor industry in China and Taiwan.
Samsung Electronics is planning to present an advanced micro-processing roadmap in a foundry forum to be held in the near future and further strengthen its ties with fabless companies including Qualcomm.
Yet Samsung’s plan appears to be making Taiwanese semiconductor business leaders nervous, as Samsung is threatening the dominance of Taiwan’s TSMC in the global foundry business.
According to reports from Chinese media outlets, Rick Tsai, CEO of MediaTek, a Taiwanese fabless company, said that it would take more time for Samsung Electronics to catch up with TSMC.
MediaTek holds the second largest share of the AP market in the United States after Qualcomm. It has grown rapidly by virtue of its connection with TSMC, the world’s largest foundry company.
"Samsung Electronics has more complex relationships with its customers (fabless companies) compared to TSMC," Tsai was quoted as saying by local media outlets on May 8.
He pointed out that although Samsung recently put forward a large-scale investment plan and secured considerable competitiveness, its operation model differs from that of foundry specialist TSMC. Tsai also noted that China has great potential to develop niche markets in the semiconductor industry.
The foundry market is dominated by TSMC with a market share of about 50 percent. Yet Samsung Electronics has narrowed its gap with TSMC by boosting its market share to 19.1 percent at the end of the first quarter of this year from 6.72 percent at the end of 2017.
Industry watchers say that Tsai’s comments suggest that Taiwanese and Chinese companies are nervous about Samsung's aggressive expansion of the non-memory business.
Chinese and Taiwanese companies are pulling out all the stops to win in their competition with Samsung Electronics. When Samsung Electronics announced the development of a 5-nanometer foundry process last month, TSMC immediately responded by announcing its plan to begin mass-production of 5-nm semiconductors in the first quarter of 2020.
As Samsung Electronics also plans to start mass-production of 5-nm chips next year, competition between the two companies will escalate in the future.
Samsung Electronics is scheduled to present a sub-3 nm technology roadmap at the Samsung Foundry Forum 2019 which will kick off at Silicon Valley in the United States on May 14. Therefore, its gap with TSMC will be further narrowed, semiconductor industry watchers say.