Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), China's largest chip maker, has signed a deal to license a 45-nanometer (nm) manufacturing process from IBM, the company said Wednesday.

The licensing agreement gives SMIC rights to use IBM's 45nm bulk CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) process technology, the Chinese chip maker said in a statement. That number refers to the average size of the smallest features that can be created on a chip, and smaller is generally considered better.

The 45nm process licensed by SMIC will allow the company to produce sophisticated communication chips, such as 3G (third-generation) mobile chipsets, as well as chips for graphics and consumer applications, the statement said.

At present, 45nm technology is the most advanced process available for commercial semiconductor production, and chip makers are just starting to use the technology. Terms of the deal, which helps SMIC keep pace with the 45nm efforts of rival contract chip makers, were not disclosed.