Xiaomi and Oppo to take on Qualcomm and MediaTek with their own in house 5G SoCs
Xiaomi and Oppo to take on Qualcomm and MediaTek with their own in house 5G SoCs


With the chip shortage, large phone and slate manufacturers are beginning to be affected Apple, some Chinese companies like Oppo and Xiaomi are developing their own 5G chips that work on sub-6GHz 5G networks. These semiconductors will hit the market sometime between late 2021 and early 2022, and will allow manufacturers’ phones to operate in the low and mid-band spectrum on the 5G spectrum. With the development of their own chips, the two companies compete against the most popular 5G SoC chip designers in Qualcomm and MediaTek.
While this isn’t a problem for Google, Chinese firms also fear that the US might ban them from getting state-of-the-art chips, as the Trump administration did at Huawei last year. Last May, the U.S. Department of Commerce revised an export rule that requires a license for a foundry that uses U.S. parts in the manufacture of chips to supply such components to Huawei. This means that Huawei can no longer receive 5 nm Kirin 9000 chips, even though it designed the chip itself.

Oppo, Xiaomi, Unisoc, and every other Chinese consumer goods company interested in building their own SoC must ensure that the foundry they choose does not comply with US export rules. The best way to make sure it does is to have tech companies headquartered in China stay away from foundries that use American technology. Currently, only TSMC and Samsung, both of which use US technology, produce chips in 5nm mode.

While the US said at the time that the penalties Huawei imposed over the past two years were necessary for security reasons, both the US and China remain in an ugly trade war that has pushed the pandemic into the background. At this time, it doesn’t seem like the Biden team has plans to reverse Huawei’s placement on the entity list and revised export rules for chip shipments.

Oppo and Xiaomi fear a repetition of the US actions against Huawei and are turning to the in-house production of chipsets

Last year Oppo hired some top executives from MediaTek, currently the world’s largest chip designer for smartphones. Oppo also reportedly spoke to executives from Qualcomm and Huawei. Anything is possible in a competitive company like the smartphone industry, including poaching executives from competing companies.

By using SoCs that they have developed themselves, phone manufacturers gain greater control over the functions of their phones and can improve the user experience and even optimize battery life. Apple is one of the smartphone makers that develops its own chips and relies on a contract foundry to build the component. Apple uses TSMC for this task and is now the latter’s largest customer.

There are two main types of flash memory chips: NOR flash and NAND flash. Due to the scarcity of supply and high demand for chips, the Digitime report found that customers of NOR Flash chip manufacturers based in Taiwan are now more eager to sign long-term supply contracts. The chip shortage was caused by the pandemic, which has resulted in more than expected demand for tablets, and automobile production is currently recovering.

This year, the world’s two largest foundries, TSMC and Samsung, started shipping chips made using the 5nm process, which allows more transistors to fit into a square inch. Using Apple as an example, the A13 Bionic, which powers the 2018 and 2019 iPhone lines, was manufactured using the 7 nm process. This process node fit nearly 90 million transistors into one square centimeter and enabled the chip to hold 8.5 billion transistors.

The A14 Bionic, which runs last year’s iPhone 12 series, was made with a 5nm process node that fits 134 million transistors into one square inch, and on which each chip carries 11.8 billion transistors. The more transistors there are in a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient it is. Apple could be the first to offer a smartphone with a 3 nm chip when the iPhone 2022 is expected to ship this September.

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