When I was flying west to attend the 2017 GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technology Conference, I couldn’t help but think of a trip 10 years earlier, to the 2007 SEMICON West. In the press room there, tech journalist Katherine Derbyshire showed off her brand-new iPhone, and several of us huddled around watching her double-tap, type on the screen, and perform feats of wizardry that were beyond those of us that had mere Blackberries.
For several years now, we’ve all been thinking about the future of technology. Will people really turn over their wheels to ADAS cars? Will neural networks learn complex tasks? Will augmented reality become so adept that doctors can offer better diagnoses? And will these capabilities run over 5G wireless networks that run circles around today’s links?
There were some answers at the 2017 GTC event in Santa Clara.
Just as the 4G wireless rollout delivered users the fast access to the Web that propelled so many new mobile applications – think Uber and others – the still-developing 5G networks will be needed to provide the performance required to spur autonomous driving, cloud-based applications, smart cities, and a host of others.
GF’s CEO, Sanjay Jha said, “5G is set to transform all industries, and our customers are already gearing up for the future.”
The moniker “5G” will evolve over time, starting out with gigabit-capable versions of the 4G LTE standard and then offering fixed-point and mobile capabilities that go beyond the long-term extension (LTE) roadmap. Jha mentioned the ability to go from today’s megabits-per-second of sustained wireless bandwidth to gigabits-per-second rates, at sub-5 nanosecond latencies.
To get there, GF will offer enhanced versions of its RF SOI, SiGe, and FDX technologies. And behind these networks will be new power solutions based on the BCD and BCD Lite offerings.
Bami Bastani, senior vice president of the RF business unit, said the 5G networks will need to support two segments, one in the sub-6 GHz realm and a millimeter wave segment that operates at 28 GHz and higher. The 5G networks will include picocells in urban areas for point-to-point transfers, and, eventually, mobile networks with enough robustness to support tomorrow’s automobiles. As 5G networks grapple with millimeter waves, Bastani said “the level of integration increases, and the demands increase on linearity and robustness.”
Cristiano Amon, executive vice president of Qualcomm, noted how whole new industries developed, based on the widespread Internet connectivity that the 4G networks supported over the last decade. “The digital economy came of age with the smartphone,” Amon said, and with future economics gains to come from 5G networks, companies such as Qualcomm are “investing heavily” in solving the design challenges that 5G represents.
Amon predicted that 5G capabilities would “enter into the PC space, with no separation between the PC and the mobile space.” And he sees China playing a very important part of Qualcomm’s efforts: “There is so much excitement in China in mobile handsets and in advancing the industry to 5G. Partnering with China has been a very important part of Qualcomm’s success,” he said.
Ten years from now, as technologists fly to the 2027 GTC event, is there anyone who seriously doubts they will be riding to the venue in ADAS-enabled cars, surfing the Web on 5G-enabled phones, and learning about the newest technologies on augmented-reality systems?
All of these things will take time. And patience, by the way, was another noteworthy theme of GTC 2017. Foundries take time to develop, both in terms of technology and their ability to offer EDA tools and IP, to meet customer deadlines and ensure quality.
GTC 2017 was in effect a statement that GF has matured into a reliable manufacturing partner. In 2017, as AMD’s chief technology officer and senior vice president Mark Papermaster said at the GTC event, AMD has seen great success with a newly designed lineup of processors and graphics solutions, created in a partnership with the 14nm FinFET technology ramped successfully at GF’s Malta, N.Y. fab.
And executives from Skyworks and Qorvo also took the stage at GTC 2017 to say that they have succeeded by partnering with GF in the wireless space as well.
Those success stories are good indicators that future successes are in store, for GF and for all of us.