(JW Insights) Sep 25-- Robert Maire, an US semiconductor industry analyst, shared his personal opinion that "We have already lost the war to keep China out of 5G and AI." He made his points in his article published at website SemiWiki on September 20, after Huawei and SMIC made public their partnership in producing a 7nm chip with 5G function.
Following are excerpts of his article:
SMIC has clearly proven that it can get around the EUV ban to prove 7nm chips. With multi-patterning and enough advanced deposition (ALD) tools, etch tools, and metrology/inspection tools.
As we have suggested, the current sanctions are likely very porous. In many cases, older generation tools are simply no longer made by tool makers, and current generation tools may be just “software restricted” to older technology nodes. In many cases, the difference between an advanced tool and a less capable tool is just a “software switch”.
As we have previously mentioned, the only sure way to limit technology is to limit it to 200MM (8 inches) rather than 300MM, as that is not porous and easily verifiable.
If SMIC is at 7NM, they are likely about five years or so behind TSMC and maybe a couple of years behind Intel & Samsung. They are already close enough for many applications, such as 5G, and going to 5NM will get them firmly into AI applications.
So, if the goal was to keep China out of 5G and AI, by definition, we have already lost the war. We lost the war due to a lack of resolve and bad technology assumptions.