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ByteDance Collaborates with Broadcom on Advanced AI Chip Development

ByYasmeeta Oon

Jun 24, 2024

ByteDance Collaborates with Broadcom on Advanced AI Chip Development

June 24, 2024 – Beijing: In a strategic move to secure its position in the competitive AI landscape, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is collaborating with U.S. chip designer Broadcom to develop an advanced AI processor. This effort aims to ensure a stable supply of high-end chips amid ongoing U.S.-China geopolitical tensions, according to sources familiar with the matter.

  • Partnership: ByteDance teams up with U.S. chip designer Broadcom.
  • Technology: Focus on developing a 5nm application-specific integrated chip (ASIC).
  • Compliance: The chip will adhere to U.S. export regulations.
  • Manufacturing: Production will be outsourced to Taiwan’s TSMC.
  • Timeline: Manufacturing to commence after the design phase completes.

ByteDance, known globally for its social media platform TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin, has been aggressively expanding its footprint in generative artificial intelligence (AI). This expansion is critical as the tech giant faces significant challenges in securing advanced AI chips, especially under the tight restrictions imposed by U.S. export controls.

The 5nm chip being developed is a specialized application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). Designed to be compliant with stringent U.S. export controls, this chip represents a significant step forward for ByteDance in overcoming supply chain hurdles. The manufacturing of this advanced chip will be handled by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), a leading player in the semiconductor industry. However, sources indicate that TSMC is not expected to start production this year, as the “tapeout” phase—marking the completion of the design phase and the start of manufacturing—has yet to begin.

This collaboration marks a rare instance of Chinese and U.S. companies working together on cutting-edge semiconductor technology since the U.S. implemented restrictions on exporting advanced chips to China in 2022. Typically, technology exchanges in this sector involve much less sophisticated products. ByteDance’s ongoing partnership with Broadcom, which began in 2022, is set to reduce procurement costs and secure a reliable supply of high-performance chips.

Chip Type5nm Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)
ComplianceAdheres to U.S. export restrictions
Manufacturing PartnerTaiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)
Current StatusDesign phase underway, manufacturing not yet started
Partnership InceptionBroadcom collaboration started in 2022
ObjectiveEnsure a stable supply of high-end chips

ByteDance’s push into AI is part of a larger trend among Chinese tech firms, which are navigating a landscape of constrained access to AI chips. The U.S. export controls have effectively barred Chinese companies from acquiring Nvidia’s most advanced chipsets, which are critical for AI and supercomputing applications. Consequently, the competition for U.S.-developed chips, designed specifically for the Chinese market, is intense. Additionally, domestic alternatives from companies like Huawei offer limited relief, as they too face high demand and supply constraints.

To power its AI initiatives, ByteDance has reportedly stockpiled Nvidia chips, including models that were available before the export restrictions and others specifically developed for the Chinese market. According to sources, ByteDance allocated $2 billion for these purchases last year, acquiring Nvidia’s A100, H100, A800, and H800 chips. The company also secured Huawei’s Ascend 910B chips, further diversifying its chip inventory.

ByteDance’s need for advanced AI chips is driven by its array of applications, from TikTok to Douyin, and its new ChatGPT-like chatbot service, Doubao, which boasts 26 million users. These platforms rely heavily on sophisticated algorithms, which in turn demand substantial processing power.

In addition to securing hardware, ByteDance is investing heavily in human capital. The company currently lists hundreds of semiconductor-related job openings on its website, including positions for ASIC chip designers. Sources reveal that ByteDance has been actively recruiting top talent from other Chinese AI chip firms, underscoring its commitment to becoming a leader in AI technology.

ByteDance’s collaboration with Broadcom on the 5nm AI processor is a strategic maneuver to navigate the complex landscape of U.S.-China semiconductor trade. By partnering with Broadcom and leveraging TSMC’s manufacturing capabilities, ByteDance aims to secure a steady supply of advanced chips, essential for its AI-driven applications and services. As the design phase progresses and manufacturing plans unfold, ByteDance’s ability to sustain its growth in the AI sector will largely depend on the successful execution of this chip development project.

  • ByteDance’s AI chip project is pivotal for maintaining competitive edge in generative AI.
  • The collaboration with Broadcom and TSMC highlights a significant Sino-U.S. tech partnership.
  • U.S. export controls present ongoing challenges for Chinese tech firms in accessing advanced chips.
  • ByteDance’s investment in AI chips and talent acquisition underscores its long-term AI ambitions.
  • The success of this initiative could set a precedent for future collaborations in the semiconductor sector amidst geopolitical tensions.

As ByteDance continues to evolve its AI capabilities, the outcome of this chip development project will be closely watched by industry stakeholders and analysts, potentially shaping the future dynamics of Sino-U.S. tech collaborations.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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