Intel, Micron Announce Qualification of QLC NAND Process

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Intel INTC and Micron MU have announced the completion of qualification for the industry's first 1Tb - 4bits/cell, or Quad-Level Cell (QLC) NAND dies on 64 layer 2 nd  Gen 3D NAND. This brings 33% greater density than the current generation 64 layer 3bits/cell (TLC) technology, enabling faster read-write speeds. Pricing and other details such as which products will receive the first silicon were missing.

The companies also announced progress in the development of third generation 96-layer NAND that will enable them to maintain their cost/density leadership.

Intel and Micron have been R&D partners for several years, but earlier this year, they announced that after the 96-layer development, they would be parting ways. This makes sense because Intel's memory ambitions indicate that the two companies will increasingly be pitted against each other.

Intel reportedly has a deal with China's government-backed Tsinghua Unigroup that will allow the Chinese company to use Intel NAND technology from its Dalian fab to manufacture consumer flash memory products and sell them under its UNIC brand. It isn't clear whether technology transfer is part of the deal but for the Chinese government, making China self-sufficient (or at least less dependent) in semiconductors is a stated goal (for which it needs to make good the technology gap).

The government has vowed to pump $161 billion over 10 years into the industry for the purpose. For Intel, it's a very big deal because it will get Intel silicon into more devices, since China is the manufacturing capital of the world, especially of electronic goods. It could also help it increase its memory market share.

According to Research and Markets, The global NAND flash market will grow at a CAGR of 15.13% during the period 2018-2022 driven by the increasing adoption of smartphones and tablets with features such as gesture control, fingerprint scanners, image scanners, and GPS. Gaining momentum is 3D NAND, driven not only by smartphones, tablet PCs and notebooks but also enterprise adoption in data centers due to its reliability and efficiency.

Intel is a late entrant in the segment, with its 3.7% share in 2017 fetching it the seventh position after SK Hynix (27.8%), Micron (25.1%), Toshiba (11.5%), Sony (10.5%) Samsung (8.4%) and Texas Instruments (6.0%).

Here's a look at how the two stocks have done over the past month-

Intel has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) while Micron has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other buy-ranked stocks include Delphi Technologies DLPH , Akamai Technologies AKAM , Amazon AMZN . Or, take a look at the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .

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