Samsung is now making chips for cryptocurrency mining

New revenue streams.
New revenue streams.
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
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It’s confirmed: Samsung has started mass producing chips designed for cryptocurrency mining, known as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).

The Korean tech giant yesterday (Jan. 31) announced its fourth-quarter revenue, which came in at 66 trillion won ($61 billion), a 24% increase year-over-year. That’s in large part thanks to strong demand for Samsung’s memory chips used in data centers and smartphones. But here’s what was buried in the company statement:

In the first quarter, earnings are expected to rise on the ramp-up of 2nd generation 10nm process products for this year’s flagship smartphones and growing demand for cryptocurrency mining chips.

It’s a confirmation of previous reports that Samsung has entered the crypto-mining sector. Earlier this week, Korean news outlet the Bell reported (link in Korean) that the company will produce ASICs in its own foundry in a deal with Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC. Later, a Samsung spokesperson confirmed with TechCrunch that the company is “currently engaged in the manufacturing of cryptocurrency mining chips,” but refused to provide more details.

Samsung’s foray into the crypto-mining space will pose serious competition to the existing leader in the industry, Beijing-based Bitmain, which claims to supply 70% of the world’s bitcoin ASICs. Bitmain also controls around 30% of all the processing power of the global bitcoin network through the two mining pools it operates.

Bitmain also contracts with TSMC to produce customized silicon. In the third quarter of 2017, the Taiwanese chipmaker received $350 to $400 million in revenue from crypto miners.

One advantage Samsung might have over Bitmain, as some note, is that the Korean giant operates one of the world’s largest semiconductor plants, capable of matching orders of any size. Bitmain has in the past put its models for sale in intermittent batches in order to keep vendors from placing large orders.