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article imageSamsung starts making cryptocurrency mining chips

By James Walker     Feb 1, 2018 in Technology
Samsung has confirmed it's producing specialist processing chips used for cryptocurrency mining. Now the largest semiconductor business in the world, the company is diversifying its operations to increase revenue. It has begun manufacturing an ASIC chip.
Samsung disclosed the new business activity in its fourth-quarter earnings call this week. The company's foundries are primarily known for producing system-on-chip (SoC) packages used inside smartphones and other connected devices. Samsung's also a leading producer of memory modules and NAND storage chips for SSDs.
It's now adding to its portfolio by commencing fabrication of ASIC computing chips. ASIC, short for application-specific integrated circuit, processors are designed for a single task. This contrasts with the regular application processors used inside PCs and phones, which are able to support a wide variety of tasks.
Because cryptocurrency mining is essentially a repetitive exercise in solving mathematical problems, ASIC chips are well suited to the workload. ASICs can offer improved mining performance over other kinds of processor. This has made them a popular option for large-scale mining activities.
Samsung hasn't detailed how many products it's producing or the quantity it intends to ship. The ASIC market is currently dominated by Chinese companies Bitmain and Canaan Creative. Both of them work with Taiwanese chip builder TSMC. According to Korean news reports, Samsung is also partnering with TSMC for its solutions.
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In a statement sent to TechCrunch, Samsung confirmed it's building mining chips but opted not to provide any more details. The Bell, a South Korean newspaper, reported Samsung began mass production this month of an ASIC chip designed last year. The company hasn't commented on the claimed details of the chips.
"Samsung's foundry business is currently engaged in the manufacturing of cryptocurrency mining chips. However we are unable to disclose further details regarding our customers," Samsung said to TechCrunch.
ASIC chips are a significant addition to Samsung's foundry solutions but it's unclear how successful the line will be. Despite their prominence in cryptocurrency mining, overall ASIC demand is low. In its fourth-quarter earnings, TSMC said sales of ASIC chips have added around $350m to its revenue. However, Samsung's chip business already pulls in around $69 billion annually.
Interest in mining tech is also being threatened by the broader challenges facing the cryptocurrency market. China is placing pressure on mining groups within its borders which could disrupt large-scale operations. Industry demand for ASIC chips might wane if miners fail to find new operating locations. Cryptocurrencies may be popular but Samsung's revenue will still be headlined by smartphone processors, not sales to miners.
More about Samsung, cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency mining, Processors, asic chips
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