Broadcom sees rising 20 nm costs amid handset push

December 10, 2012 // By Rick Merritt
Cost-per-transistor may rise at the 20- and 14-nm generations, Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor said during in the company’s annual analyst day here. Nevertheless, the company will “judiciously” drive more products to newer nodes next year as it rolls out its first LTE chips and gears up for a push into integrated applications processors.

Separately, Broadcom expects handsets using its near-field communications chips will ramp next year. TVs and set-tops using 4K x 2K displays and the new high-efficiency video codec (likely to be re-named MPEG-5) will be a big focus at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show, he added.

“Moore’s Law is going through an interesting phase,” said McGregor. “We use to have improvement in cost per transistor at every node, and at 28 nm it’s coming down, but in 20 or 14 nm it may even come up and that may be a shock for everyone."

Nevertheless, Broadcom expects to gain economic advantages by driving a greater percentage of products to leading nodes when they need it for lower power or higher density.

“We have been a generation or two behind others in the node we use, but we believe it makes sense to move closer to the leading edge,” McGregor said. “We won’t be the first in a process tech but we will get more competitive."

“When we went to 65 nm, we moved the whole product portfolio, but that won’t happen going forward,” said McGregor. “We will be judicious, 28 nm will have long life and some products won’t make sense to move maybe ever and that is very different from the past."

Broadcom expects to tape out 50 new SoCs in 2012. “This is the engine of Broadcom’s growth, a large part of what you get for spending $2 billion in R&D,” according to McGregor.