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 around the world as TSMC. The world’s largest foundry produces chips based on designs brought to it by companies like Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, MediaTek and more. In fact, Apple it is TSMC’s largest customer and accounts for about 25% of the company’s revenue.

TSMC Halts Production of 7nm GPU Chips for Chinese Startup Biren Technology

TSMC currently produces powerful, energy-efficient chips such as the Apple A16 Bionic found within 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 BloombergTSMC has suspended production by Chinese startup Biren Technology.

The reason for stopping production for this company is that TSMC is following US regulations that prevent it from making chips for the China-based company. Part of the reason for this is that Biren’s products outperform Nvidia’s A100 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) silicon in the English language. China South Morning Post called “information in the public domain”. The United States is trying to keep cutting-edge chips away from China.
Last September, the US ordered Nvidia to stop shipping the A100 chip to China to “…address the risk that the products could be used 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 US Commerce Department last month expressed a goal of “keeping advanced technologies out of the hands of the wrong hands.” China called it a “technology blockade”. At the same time, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shu Jieting said, “The United States 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 compete with GPUs designed by Nvidia and AMD that are powered by AI and machine learning models and algorithms.

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

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

A spokesperson for the US Department of Commerce said: “While the BIS cannot comment on company-specific actions, we expect all companies to comply with export controls. Since the rule’s publication on October 7 , the BIS has conducted a vigorous outreach effort to educate those affected by it to aid enforcement efforts.”

One of the Biren GPU chips that TSMC was to produce for the company was the BR100 GPU which was 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.

Changes in export rules have been used before to restrict the distribution of silicon to China. A restriction announced by the US Department of Commerce in 2020 prevents foundries that use US technology to make advanced chips from shipping these chips to Huawei. The latter is considered a risk to national security by the two main political parties and the restriction has forced huawei abandon its own Kirin 5G application processor (AP) chips. Its current Mate 50 and Mate 50 Pro flagship phones they are powered by Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. While this is Qualcomm’s current top-of-the-line mobile AP chipset, the chip sold to Huawei is modified to prevent it from working with 5G networks.

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