Qualcomm Taps Intel To Build Next-Gen Snapdragon Chips On Its 20A Process Tech

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger
Intel has already lined up some pretty big customers for its cutting edge 20A process technology, which will introduce new transistor architecture and interconnect technologies when it arrives in the first half of 2024. One of those customers is Qualcomm—it plans to leverage Intel's 20A technology for future Snapdragon system-on-chip (SoC) designs.

In case you missed it, Intel outlined a number of new and interesting details about the company's IDM 2.0 strategy, during yesterday's Intel Accelerated webcast. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and Dr. Ann Kelleher, SVP and general manager of technology development, laid it all out on the line, talking about Intel's new node naming scheme and future technologies.

We won't rehash every single detail in this article, but at a glance, here's a look at how Intel is now labeling its nodes...

Intel Node Names
Click to Enlarge (Source: Intel)

Intel has long contended that nanometer measurements do not tell the whole story, and that is true. When comparing nodes from two different manufacturers, there are multiple factors at play, and this new naming scheme is an attempt to bring some clarity to the situation.

The current 10nm SuperFin process retains its name, but everything after that is getting rebranded, starting with Intel's 10nm Enhanced SuperFin—that is now called Intel 7, and it is what underpins Alder Lake.

Looking further steps down the line, we see 'Intel 20A' on the roadmap as Intel moves into the angstrom era (an angstrom is equal to a unit of length of one hundred-millionth of a centimeter). Intel is promising breakthrough innovations with 20A, such as a new RibbonFET transistor architecture and PowerVia delivery system.

This is what Qualcomm will design future Snapdragon chips around.

Qualcomm Intel 20A Tweet

"Qualcomm is excited about the breakthrough RibbonFET and PowerVia technologies coming in Intel 20A. We're also pleased to have another leading-edge foundry partner enabled by IFS that will help the US fabless industry to bring its products to an onshore manufacturing site," Qualcomm president and CEO Cristiano Amon said in a statement.

Like AMD, Apple, and many others, Qualcomm is a fabless operation, meaning it does not actually manufacture its own silicon. Instead, it designs the chips, and then taps various foundries to crank out wafers built to specification. TSMC has been the go-to foundry, for the most part, though Qualcomm has also sourced semiconductors from Samsung. And of course Globalfoundries is another chip maker, which was spun out of AMD many years ago (incidentally, it's rumored Intel is mulling a $30 billion buyout offer for Globalfoundries).

Intel is chasing parity in the foundry space, in terms of advanced process nodes, and is looking to regain leadership. Qualcomm is already enamored with what Intel 20A brings to the table. Same goes for Amazon, the other major customer Intel announced. Amazon will inject processors based on Intel 20A into its data centers, whereas Qualcomm will put them into chips bound for consumer devices.

It will be several years before this materializes, but we're excited to see what Snapdragon parts based on Intel 20A will be capable of when they finally do materialize.