TSMC suspends production of powerful GPU chip for Chinese tech firm

TSMC suspends production of powerful GPU chip for Chinese tech firm
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. is known throughout the planet as TSMC. The largest foundry in the world produces chips based on the designs presented to it by companies like Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, MediaTek, and more. In fact, Apple is TSMC's largest customer and accounts for approximately 25% of the company's revenue.

TSMC halts production of 7nm GPU chips for Chinese start-up company Biren Technology

TSMC currently produces powerful and energy-efficient chips such as the Apple A16 Bionic found inside the iPhone 14 Pro series, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 found in newer high-end Android phones including the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, Galaxy Z Flip 4, and the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra. According to Bloomberg, TSMC has suspended production for Chinese start-up Biren Technology.

The reason for halting production for this company is that TSMC is following U.S. regulations that prevent it from making chips for the Chinese-based firm. Part of the reason for this is that Biren's products outperform Nvidia's A100 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) silicon based on what the English language South China Morning Post calls "information in the public domain." The U.S. is trying to keep cutting-edge chips away from China.

This past September, the U.S. ordered that Nvidia stop shipping the A100 chip to China to "...address the risk that products may be used in, or diverted to, a 'military end use' or 'military end user' in China." The A100, according to Nvidia, is used to "power the world’s highest performing elastic data centers for AI, data analytics, and high-performance computing (HPC) applications."

The U.S. Commerce Department last month expressed a goal to "keep advanced technologies out of the wrong hands." China called it a "tech blockade." At the same time, commerce ministry spokesperson Shu Jieting said that "the U.S. continues to abuse export control measures to restrict exports of semiconductor-related items to China, which China firmly opposes."

Biren was trying to raise funds earlier this year at a valuation of $2.7 billion. The company designs its BR100 and BR104 processors to be competitive with GPUs designed by Nvidia and AMD that work with AI and Machine Learning models and algorithms.

TSMC itself isn't sure that Biren's chips are covered by U.S. regulations but has decided to halt production of them anyway. Biren, of course, says that its AI chips are not covered by U.S. export restrictions. A TSMC spokesperson made a limited statement noting that the foundry complies with all relevant rules. The U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced new semiconductor restrictions on October 7th.

Biren Technology's BR100 GPU is said to be 2.8 times faster than the NVIDIA A100 GPU

A spokesperson for the U.S. Commerce Department said, "While BIS cannot comment on company-specific actions, we expect all companies to comply with export controls. Since the release of the rule on October 7, BIS has been undertaking a vigorous outreach effort to educate those impacted by it to aid compliance efforts."

Recommended Stories
One of the Biren GPU chips that TSMC was going to produce for the company was the BR100 GPU which manufactured using TSMC's 7nm process node and features 77 billion transistors in each chipset. This particular component was said to be 2.8 times faster than Nvidia's A100.

Export rule changes have been used before to restrict the distribution of silicon to China. A restriction announced by the U.S. Commerce Department in 2020 prevents foundries using American technology to manufacture advanced chips from shipping these chips to Huawei. The latter is considered a national security risk by both major political parties and the restriction has forced Huawei to abandon its own Kirin 5G Application Processor (AP) chips. Its current flagship Mate 50 and Mate 50 Pro handsets are powered by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. While this is Qualcomm's current top-of-the-line mobile AP chipset, the chip sold to Huawei is tweaked to prevent it from working with 5G networks.

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless