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GlobalFoundries, ARM bring 28nm process to mobiles

Posted: 17 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:28nm process? mobile application? wireless? processor?

GlobalFoundries Inc. and ARM Holdings plc have detailed two 28nm manufacturing process technologies for wireless products. They also claim to have a mobile SoC "platform" based on the Cortex-A9 processor core.

The collaboration covers a 28nm "super" low-power process for mobile and consumer applications and a 28nm high-performance process.

GlobalFoundries said it expects to start manufacturing the high-performance process technology at Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany, in the second half of 2010 and the super low power process, aimed at mobile applications about a quarter later at the start of 2011.

The two companies announced their collaboration in October 2009.

GlobalFoundries claimed its 28nm processes would allow a 40 percent increase in computing performance and a 30 percent improvement in power efficiency for mobile computing devices which in turn could translate to a 100 percent improvement in battery life.

GlobalFoundries made the comparison with the 40/45nm process generation but did not make any reference to particular manufacturers.

"We are working closely with ARM to optimize the physical IP and implementation of the Cortex-A9 processor with our proven manufacturing experience in high-volume, advanced technology products, to deliver a fully integrated platform for leading-edge wireless products and applications," said GlobalFoundries chief operating officer Chia Song Hwee, in a statement.

The SoC platform is based on the Cortex-A9 processor core, optimized physical IP and GlobalFoundries' 28nm gate-first high-k metal gate (HKMG) process.

Going high-k
GlobalFoundries received its base-line technology from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. which began work on 32nm process technology in 2007 in alliance with IBM, Samsung and Chartered Semiconductor. Chartered is now also part of GlobalFoundries. However, Intel has been using HKMG for a couple of process nodes.

GlobalFoundries is due to begin shipping chips made on the 32nm SOI process, which also includes HKMG, to AMD at mid-year 2010.

The combined benefits of ARM IP and GlobalFoundries 28nm HKMG process enables up to a 30 percent reduction of power consumption and 100 percent increase in standby battery life compared to 40-/45nm.

"The transition to the 28nm technology node will be an important inflection point for wireless technology," said ARM president Tudor Brown. "Our collaboration with GlobalFoundries will enable customers to rapidly bring high-performance, low-power ARM technology-based designs to market on a 28nm HKMG technology that is ready for high-volume implementation. The combination of GlobalFoundries technology, our leading physical IP solutions, and the full internet capabilities delivered by ARM processors results in a powerful integration of processing, graphics and power efficiency."

Although Intel has more experience with HKMG process technology GlobalFoundries becomes the leading foundry able to supply processors using HKMG technology.

ARM joined the IBM joint development alliance in 2008 to enable the development of optimized processor and physical IP tuned to the HKMG process.

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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