Intel is optimizing its fabs to become an ARM chip manufacturer

The companies will tweak Intel's 18A fabrication process for use with ARM designs.

Arnd Wiegmann / reuters

Intel and ARM, arguably two of the most important players in modern chipmaking, are joining forces. On Wednesday, the companies announced a “multigeneration” agreement to optimize Intel’s upcoming 18A fabrication process for use with ARM designs and intellectual property. The deal won’t see Intel’s Foundry Services division produce chipsets for ARM. Instead, it will make it easier for ARM licensees, including the likes of Qualcomm and MediaTek, to hire Intel to make chips in the future.

To start, the firms plan to focus on optimizing Intel 18A for mobile system-on-a-chip designs. In the future, Intel and ARM say their partnership could extend to silicon designed for use in cars, Internet of Things devices and data centers. Additionally, the support Intel will offer ARM licensees will extend beyond wafer production to include “packaging, software and chiplets,” suggesting Intel envisions itself acting as a one-stop shop for companies that want it to produce their ARM designs.

Naturally, Intel is also quick to allude to the geopolitical ramifications of the agreement. “This collaboration will enable a more balanced global supply chain for foundry customers working in mobile SoC design on Arm-based CPU cores,” the company said. According to an estimate Counterpoint Research published last July, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) produces nearly 70 percent of all the chipsets that are critical to modern smartphones. On Monday, China concluded a three-day military exercise that involved the encirclement of Taiwan. The drills heightened fears of an impending war on the island.

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