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Nvidia in Advanced Talks to Acquire SoftBank-owned Chip Maker ARM For $32 Billion

Image for Representation

Image for Representation

Buying ARM would consolidate graphics giant Nvidia’s position at the centre of the semiconductor industry.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: August 1, 2020, 11:05 AM IST

US chip-maker Nvidia is reportedly in advance talks to acquire SoftBank-owned UK chip company ARM in a cash-and-stock deal worth at least $32 billion. According to a report in the Financial Times on Friday citing sources, the talks began after “Nvidia approached SoftBank, which has been pursuing a series of other asset sales, about a potential acquisition”. The proposed deal includes “both cash and stock and that it valued ARM at above the $32bn price that SoftBank paid for the business in 2016”. Both Nvidia and ARM did not comment on the report. The British chip designer powers major mobile processor from companies like Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Apple last month confirmed its break up with Intel chips for ARM chips in its Mac desktops, announcing it will transition the Mac to its world-class custom silicon to deliver industry-leading performance and powerful new technologies. Buying ARM would consolidate graphics giant Nvidia’s position at the centre of the semiconductor industry. SoftBank bought ARM for $31 billion in 2016. Microsoft makes an ARM-based Surface laptop and a version of Windows designed for ARM. According to The Verge, Nvidia would make an interesting owner for ARM. While Nvidia is the leader for GPUs, it has little to do with CPU design or mobile hardware.

Nvidia said this week it delivered the world’s fastest Artificial Intelligence (AI) training performance among commercially available chips, a feat that will help big enterprises tackle the most complex challenges in AI, data science and scientific computing. Nvidia A100 GPUs and DGX SuperPOD systems were declared the world’s fastest commercially available products for AI training, according to MLPerf benchmarks. The A100 Tensor Core GPU demonstrated the fastest performance per accelerator on all eight MLPerf benchmarks.



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Intel Ousts Its Indian-origin Chief Engineer Murthy Renduchintala After 7nm Chip Delay

Intel Corp’s Chief Engineering Officer Murthy Renduchintala is departing, part of a move in which a key technology unit will be separated into five teams, the chipmaker said on Monday. Intel said it is reorganizing its technology, systems architecture and client group. Its new leaders will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Bob Swan. According to Intel, Renduchintala will depart on August 3

Ann Kelleher, a 24-year Intel veteran, will lead the development of 7-nanometer and 5-nanometer chip technology processes. Last week, the company had said the smaller, faster 7-nanometer chipmaking technology was six months behind schedule and it would have to rely more on outside chipmakers to keep its products competitive.

Renduchintala, who was president of the wide-ranging group before its reorganization and widely seen as a No. 2 to Swan, joined Intel in 2015. He was executive vice president of Qualcomm Inc, and has been on Accenture’s board since April 2018. Renduchintala was one of several key hires from outside Intel, which had been famous in Silicon Valley for developing and promoting talent from within. He was hired as part of a strategy to go after broader markets than the central processing units, or CPUs, the company became known for in the PC era.

One major effort, creating modem chips to connect smartphones to mobile data networks, ended last year. Intel sold the business to Apple for $1 billion, a fraction of what it had invested in the effort. Renduchintala eventually took responsibly for turning around Intel’s process technology, which struggled with years of delay for its current 10-nanometer process. CEO Swan told investors in November that Intel was set to start catching up to rivals with its 7-nanometer process in early 2021, but was forced to reverse himself last week because of the delays.


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Fastest Internet Speeds Ever? New Chip Delivers 44.2 Tbps on an Existing Fiber Line!

We are all sticklers for fast internet connections. We unanimously hate buffering, or drop in quality when streaming a movie or broadcasting live on a social media platform. Such things may very well be non-existing, for researchers have achieved an incredible feat of achieving the fastest internet speeds ever — at a staggering 44.2 TERA-bits per seconds. What’s more impressive are three things — first of all, the new piece of technology, which is actually an optical chip that is as tiny as a fingernail, has already been tested in an existing fiber broadband line in Australia; secondly, the internet speeds were achieved and sustained in a non-laboratory, consumer network; and finally, even in the coded, in-field tests, the drop in peak speeds was not drastic.

Is this for real?

Yes, it is. The achievement has been made by a group of researchers from the universities of Monash, Swinburne and RMIT in Australia, and was published in the Nature Communications journal. The speeds achieved reached 44.2 Tbps at peak, and in a coded line, the peak speed fell to 39 Tbps — a near-12 percent drop, but hey, we aren’t complaining at all.

To achieve the fastest internet speeds ever, the researchers used what is referred to as ‘soliton crystal micro-combs’. In simpler terms, this optical chip is a super high-density chip that can replace 80 laser nodes inside an optic fiber broadband cable. In essence, what this micro-comb does is act like a splitter, thereby dividing an existing optic fiber cable into 80 unique channels. However, what is particularly impressive note is that each channel preserves its peak bandwidth capacity, or the maximum amount of data that it can carry. Hence, by deploying this chip inside existing telecommunications cables and infrastructure, the maximum internet speeds delivered can increase exponentially.

So, how fast does it work in real life?

For reference, imagine downloading 720p resolution movie files, each about 90 minutes in length. For such files with industry standard compression, the average file size is about 1GB. If you had a 44.2 Tbps internet connection in the real world, you can download as many as 5,000 movies in one second. Even if you watch two full movies every day, that’s nearly eight years worth of movies for you to see. Good luck working from home!

Whoa! How soon can I get this?

Here’s the tricky bit. With every new achievement such as this, there is typically a wait time. The achievement has been made as part of a research project. Hence, it will take at least some time before the optical chip technology can be made commercially viable in terms of cost and deployment. Then, remains the task of upgrading all the existing fiber broadband lines around the world to bring you the fastest internet speeds in the world, which itself is a behemoth task in terms of logistics, time, deployment and cost.

Even once it is done, priority will be given to industrial applications such as medical research, space communications, smart cities and connected cars, and so on. This would address the desperate need for additional bandwidth that these fields require in order to truly flourish, which is more than our need to stream re-runs of Dark on Netflix.

However, what’s encouraging to note is that the tests for the fastest internet speeds in the world were achievable on existing fiber broadband lines. This gives us the promise that once it does become commercially deployable, we may see a smooth rollout across the world. While we cannot exactly predict a timeline, we will keep our fingers crossed for a hopeful and fast near future.



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Samsung Reports 57.4% Increase in Chip Production in Q1 2020 Despite COVID-19 Crisis

Representative image.

Representative image.

Samsung, the world’s largest memory chip maker, produced 277.4 billion units of semiconductors in the January-March period, up from 176.2 billion units in 2019.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 18, 2020, 3:38 PM IST

Samsung Electronics’ chip production in the first quarter of the year increased 57.4 per cent from a year earlier despite the spread of the novel coronavirus, the company’s quarterly business report showed on Monday. Samsung, the world’s largest memory chip maker, produced 277.4 billion units of semiconductors in the January-March period, up from 176.2 billion units a year earlier, according to the report. Its chip factory operation rate was 100 per cent.

Industry insiders said Samsung’s increased production was aimed at meeting the rising demand for server chips as the coronavirus pandemic boosted non-face-to-face activities. In contrast, Samsung’s mobile phone and display production plunged in the first quarter, the report showed, due to factory shutdowns from the virus outbreak.

Samsung produced 58.7 million handsets and 1.45 million units of display products in the first three months of 2020, down 34.4 percent and 35.5 percent from a year earlier, respectively. The operation rate for Samsung’s mobile manufacturing business was only 73.3 percent in the first quarter, according to the report, down 16.2 percentage points from a year earlier, reports Yonhup news agency.

Industry observers expected that Samsung’s operation rate for its mobile and TV plants in the second quarter is likely to be worse than the first quarter, as more manufacturing bases have suffered shutdowns. In the current quarter, Samsung had to temporarily close its plants in countries including India, Brazil and Mexico due to the pandemic.




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US Targets Huawei With Stringent Chip Export Rules, China Vows Retaliation

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(Reuters)

Image for Representation
(Reuters)

The reaction from China was swift, with a report on Friday by China’s Global Times saying Beijing was ready to put U.S. companies on an “unreliable entity list”.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: May 16, 2020, 11:49 AM IST

The Trump administration on Friday moved to block global chip supplies to blacklisted telecoms equipment giant Huawei Technologies, spurring fears of Chinese retaliation and hammering shares of U.S. producers of chipmaking equipment.

A new rule, unveiled by the Commerce Department and first reported by Reuters, expands U.S. authority to require licenses for sales to Huawei of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology, vastly expanding its reach to halt exports to the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker. “This action puts America first, American companies first, and American national security first,” a senior Commerce Department official told reporters in a telephone briefing on Friday. Huawei, the world’s top telecoms equipment maker, did not respond to a request for comment.

News of the move against the firm hit European stocks as traders sold into the day’s gains, while shares of chip equipment makers such as Lam Research and KLA Corp closed down 6.4% and 4.8%, respectively, in U.S. trading. The reaction from China was swift, with a report on Friday by China’s Global Times saying Beijing was ready to put U.S. companies on an “unreliable entity list,” as part of countermeasures in response to the new limits on Huawei.

The measures include launching investigations and imposing restrictions on U.S. companies such as Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Qualcomm Inc, as well as suspending purchases of Boeing Co airplanes, the report said here citing a source. The Commerce Department’s rule, effective Friday but with a 120-day grace period, also hit Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd, the biggest contract chipmaker and key Huawei supplier, which announced plans to build a U.S.-based plant on Thursday.

TSMC said on Friday it is “following the U.S. export rule change closely” and working with outside counsel to “conduct legal analysis and ensure a comprehensive examination and interpretation of these rules.” The department said the rule is aimed at preventing Huawei from continuing to “undermine” its status as a blacklisted company, meaning suppliers of U.S.-made sophisticated technology must seek a U.S. government license before selling to it.

“There has been a very highly technical loophole through which Huawei has been in able, in effect, to use U.S. technology with foreign fab producers,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network on Friday, calling the rule change a “highly tailored thing to try to correct that loophole.” The company was added to the Commerce Department’s “entity list” last year due to national security concerns, amid accusations from Washington that it violated U.S. sanctions on Iran and can spy on customers. Huawei has denied the allegations.

Frustration among China hawks in the administration that Huawei’s entity listing was not doing enough to curb its access to supplies prompted an effort, first reported by Reuters in November, to crack down on the company that culminated in Friday’s rule. Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce Department official, said the rule appeared to be a “novel, complex expansion of U.S. export controls” for chip-related items made with U.S. technology abroad and sent to Huawei. But he stressed that chips designed by companies other than Huawei and manufactured with U.S. technology could still be sold to the company without the license requirement.

While the new rules will apply to chips regardless of their level of sophistication, a senior U.S. State Department official who also briefed reporters Friday opened the door to some flexibility for the company, echoing reprieves granted to Huawei by the Trump administration previously. “This is a licensing requirement. It does not necessarily mean that things are denied,” the official said, adding that the rule gives the U.S. government greater “visibility” into the shipments. “What are done with those applications, we’ll have to see … Each application will be judged on its merits.”

After essentially barring Huawei from buying from U.S. suppliers, the Commerce Department granted licenses to some of Huawei’s biggest U.S. partners to continue to sell to the company, while also allowing smaller rural telecoms companies to continue to purchase Huawei equipment to keep their networks up and running. Huawei, which needs semiconductors for its smartphones and telecoms equipment, has found itself at the heart of a battle for global technological dominance between the United States and China, whose relationship has soured in recent months over the origins of the deadly coronavirus.

While the rule change is aimed at squeezing Huawei and will hit the chip foundries it relies on, U.S. manufacturers of chipmaking equipment could face long-term pain, if chipmakers develop new equipment sources beyond the reach of U.S. rules. But for now, most chipmakers rely on equipment produced by U.S. companies such as KLA, Lam Research and Applied Materials, which did not respond to requests for comment.

While some of the complex tools required to make chips come from companies outside the United States, such as Japan’s Tokyo Electron and Hitachi and the Netherlands’ ASML, analysts say it would be difficult to put together an entire toolchain for making advanced semiconductors without at least some American equipment. The burden of dealing with the new rule is most likely to be felt by foundries such as TSMC that buy the tools, rather than U.S. semiconductor firms such as Qualcomm Inc or Nvidia Corp that tap such foundries as part of their supply chain.

“We are concerned this rule may create uncertainty and disruption for the global semiconductor supply chain, but it seems to be less damaging to the U.S. semiconductor industry than the very broad approaches previously considered,” Semiconductor Industry Association Chief Executive John Neuffer said in a statement. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the action was aimed at protecting “the integrity of 5G networks.” He added that the rule “helps prevent Huawei from undermining U.S. export controls.”



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US-China Tensions Simmer as Washington Moves to Cut Huawei Off From Global Chip Suppliers

The Trump administration on Friday moved to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies from global chipmakers, in an action that could ramp up tensions with China.

The US Commerce Department said it was amending an export rule to “strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.”

Reuters first reported the news ahead of the department’s release. The department said its “announcement cuts off Huawei’s efforts to undermine U.S. export controls.”

The rule change is a blow to Huawei, the world’s no. 2 smartphone maker, as well as to Taiwan’s Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd, a major producer of chips for Huawei’s HiSilicon unit as well as mobile phone rivals Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc. TMSC announced late Thursday it would build a $12 billion chip factory in Arizona. TSMC did not immediately comment Friday.

Huawei, which needs semiconductors for its widely used smartphones and telecoms equipment, is at the heart of a battle for global technological dominance between the United States and China.

Huawei, which has warned that the Chinese government would retaliate if the rule went into effect, did not immediately comment on Friday. U.S. stock market futures turned negative on the Reuters report.

“The Chinese government will not just stand by and watch Huawei be slaughtered on the chopping board,” Huawei Chairman Eric Xu told reporters on March 31.

The United States is trying to convince allies to exclude Huawei gear from next generation 5G networks on grounds its equipment could be used by China for spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied the claim.

Huawei has continued to use U.S. software and technology to design semiconductors, the Commerce Department said, despite being placed on a U.S. economic blacklist in May 2019.

Under the rule change, foreign companies that use U.S. chipmaking equipment will be required to obtain a U.S. license before supplying certain chips to Huawei, or an affiliate like HiSilicon.

In order for Huawei to continue to receive some chipsets or use some semiconductor designs tied to certain U.S. software and technology, it would need to receive licenses from the Commerce Department.

NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERNS

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business “there has been a very highly technical loophole through which Huawei has been in able, in effect, to use U.S. technology with foreign fab producers.” Ross called the rule change a “highly tailored thing to try to correct that loophole.”

Ross said in a written statement Huawei had “stepped-up efforts to undermine these national security-based restrictions.”

The Commerce Department said the rule will allow wafers already in production to be shipped to Huawei as long as the shipments are complete within 120 days from Friday. Chipsets would need to be in production by Friday or they would be ineligible under the rule.

The United States placed Huawei and 114 affiliates on its economic blacklist citing national security concerns. That forced some U.S. and foreign companies to seek special licenses from the Commerce Department to sell to it, but China hawks in the U.S. government have been frustrated by the vast number of supply chains beyond their reach.

Separately, the Commerce Department extended a temporary license that was set to expire Friday to allow U.S. companies, many of which operate wireless networks in rural America, to continue doing business with Huawei through Aug. 13. It warned it expected this would be the final extension.

Reuters first reported the administration was considering changes to the Foreign Direct Product Rule, which subjects some foreign-made goods based on U.S. technology or software to U.S. regulations, in November.

Most chip manufacturers rely on equipment produced by U.S. companies like KLA, Lam Research and Applied Materials, according to a report last year from China’s Everbright Securities.

The Trump administration has taken a series of steps aimed at Chinese telecom firms in recent weeks.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month began the process of shutting down the U.S. operations of three state-controlled Chinese telecommunications companies, citing national security risks. The FCC also in April approved Alphabet Inc unit Google’s request to use part of an 8,000-mile undersea telecommunications cable between the United States and Taiwan, but not Hong Kong, after U.S. agencies raised national security concerns.

This week, President Donald Trump extended for another year a May 2019 executive order barring U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by companies deemed to pose a national security risk, a move seen aimed at Huawei and peer ZTE Corp.



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Intel Launches New Xeon Data Center Processor, 10nm 5G Chip

Intel Corp launched new microprocessors, including a second-generation Xeon processor for data centres and a 10nm chip for wireless 5G base stations. Demand from cloud computing companies has boosted sales of server chips, leading to strong results from Intel and its rival AMD Corp. Intel’s Xeon chips have dominated the market for server chips, but AMD has been gaining ground since its re-entry into the business three years ago with rival EPYC processors that earned positive reviews.

The new Xeon chips will provide better per-dollar performance than the last generation, while the 10nm chip, P5900, will help it become the leading silicon provider in base stations by 2021, a year earlier than expected, Intel said. Last month, the chipmaker said it would release nine 10nm products in 2020 and launch its 7nm product next year. AMD has already launched several chips based on the smaller 7nm architecture.

Intel had struggled with delays in its 10nm chip technology, losing its lead to rivals in the race to supply to the “new data economy”, which includes 5G, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. The company had planned to launch the new chips at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but the event was called off due to rising fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

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Apple iPhone 11 is Selling so Well That TSMC May Have to Increase A13 Chip Production

Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models have outsold 2018’s releases in the Chinese market, even without 5G facilities.

Apple iPhone 11 is Selling so Well That TSMC May Have to Increase A13 Chip Production
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The rising popularity of the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro has prompted Apple to ask chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to increase the production of the A13 processor. According to a report in Bloomberg, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models have outsold 2018’s releases in the Chinese market, even without 5G capabilities just yet. The report says that “iPhone demand has been outperforming the market and Apple’s expectations”, and has cited a source as saying that the cheapest iPhone 11 model that has an LCD display screen was the driving force behind the increase in demand.This comes just ahead of the expected launch of the smaller and more affordable iPhone sometime in the next few weeks, and could be the newest addition to the iPhone line-up.

Another reason for Apple to increase the production of chips by TSMC could be for for the upcoming launch of a new model of iPhone that is slated to be priced at a more affordable price point. The iPhone SE successor, as it is popularly referred to, is slated for mass production in February, will reportedly be unveiled in March. However, both TSMC and Apple have declined to comment on the same. Apart from the A13 chipset, the Taiwan based TSMC will also be manufacturing and supplying the A14 chip for the newer versions of iPhones as well.

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Realme to Launch Smartphone With New Snapdragon 720G Chip in India

Qualcomm recently announced three new mobile chipsets in India.

Realme to Launch Smartphone With New Snapdragon 720G Chip in India
Qualcomm recently announced three new mobile chipsets in India.

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Realme’s CEO Madhav Sheth on Tuesday announced to launch a smartphone with the new Snapdragon 720G SoC (system-on-chip) in India. Speaking at the Qualcomm Summit here, Sheth said the company will be among the first smartphone brands in the country with this next-gen chip.

“It’s time for the big reveal! #realme will be among the first smartphone brands to launch the @qualcomm_in Snapdragon 720G in the upcoming smartphones,” tweeted Sheth after the event. The new SoC model is aimed to provide fast 4G connectivity alongside supporting Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

The new chip includes Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming features and is said to provide smooth HDR gameplay, dynamic colour range and contrast along with high-quality sound with Qualcomm aptX Adaptive. The chip is also capable of supporting 4K video recording and capturing 192-megapixel still images. The company claims the latest chipset offers 60 percent performance boost as compared to its predecessor. The Snapdragon 720G, which comes as the watered down version of the Snapdragon 730G, has Snapdragon X15 LTE modem with support for 3-carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO on two carriers, and 256-QAM modulation for download speeds up to 800Mbps.