At Qualcomm’s annual general meeting, Qualcomm CEO Christian Amon identified TSMC and Samsung to be the company’s strategic partners. Regarding Intel’s IDM 2.0 strategy, Amon was of the opinion that Intel’s new foundry business would make Qualcomm’s supply chain more flexible and overall a positive development for the US semiconductor industry. In fact, Qualcomm has become one of the first customers of Intel’s foundry business, using Intel’s 20A process, alongside Amazon.
Qualcomm has also been the largest customer of Samsung’s foundry business, driven by the latter’s lower prices as well as Qualcomm’s bid to secure orders from Samsung’s smartphone business. However, the relatively low reliability of Samsung’s 5nm process, in addition to supply disruptions caused by the snowstorm in Texas where Samsung manufactured Qualcomm’s RF components, have severely interrupted the shipping of Qualcomm’s 5G handset chips, resulting in Qualcomm’s loss of Chinese 5G chip market share to MediaTek in the first half of 2021. In addition, Qualcomm’s supply of power management ICs, mainly produced by the SMIC in China, was also disturbed when the Chinese foundry got hit by US sanctions.
According to Counterpoint’s forecast, the global market share of MediaTek’s handset chips reached 32% in 2020, overtaking Qualcomm for the first time, even though MediaTek’s 5G handset chips only had a 15% market share. However, as Qualcomm has continuously faced shipment challenges since last year, MediaTek’s handset chips will continue to dominate the market with a 37% global market share, while closing the gap with Qualcomm in the 5G handset market at an expected 28% market share.
In the second half of 2021, Qualcomm will return to TSMC, becoming the second largest user of its 7/6 nm processes next to AMD, and followed by MediaTek.