The baseband chip is used to synthesize the baseband signal to be transmitted or to receive the decoded baseband code, and is also responsible for compiling the address information, the text information, and the picture information. Baseband chip isMobile phoneThe most important part of the chip consists of a CPU processor, channel encoder, digital signal processor, modem and interface module.
The change of each generation of communication technology is accompanied by the reshuffle of mobile phone brands. At the same time, the chip manufacturers behind the mobile phones will be re-divided. The 5G smart phone baseband chip carries the heavy responsibility of competing for the voice of the new generation of mobile terminals, but subject to multiple factors such as technology and market, only Qualcomm and Samsung are currently able to compete in the world.Huawei, MediaTek and Spreadtrum.
Judging from the current market commercial situation, Huawei and Qualcomm are undoubtedly the most competitive manufacturers. Huawei's Barong 5000 has entered mass production, and Qualcomm X55 is also starting to target terminal mobile phone customers, with Apple's “help”. "The "Dragon Elephant" showdown on 5G baseband chip technology will become more intense.
Even as a veteran in the chip field, in the face of Apple's "hydrangea", Intel also has the "powerless" time.
"We are excited about the 5G and network 'clouding' opportunities, but in the smartphone modem business, there is clearly no clear path to profitability and rewards." Intel CEO BobSwan on April 17th In a statement, “5G remains Intel’s strategic focus, and our team has developed a range of valuable wireless product suites and intellectual property. We are evaluating our options to make the value of the creation possible, including An opportunity for a broad, data-centric platform and device in a 5G world."
Two years ago, in the face of many baseband chip players, Intel showed enough confidence that the XMM8160 does not require two separate baseband chips for 5G and 4G/3G/ respectively. 2G network connection, while avoiding the design complexity, power management and device shape adjustment problems faced by single-mode 5G chips, provides significant improvements in power consumption, size and scalability.
The implication is that this product is beneficial for customers including Apple to achieve a place on the 5G runway. But on the release schedule of the first batch of 5G mobile phones, Apple has gradually fallen behind.
Canalys analyst Jia Mo told the First Financial Reporter that on the chip, only the investment of funds may not bring actual output, which is very uncertain. Apple does not want to lag behind the 5G competition, and it is the safest move to make a compromise and switch back to Qualcomm.
The difficulty of manufacturing 5GModem may only be realized by chip companies.
With the development of communication technology from 2G/3G/4G to 5G, the baseband chip is also very complicated. It is not only to integrate RF, GPS, etc., but also to support multi-mode system. For example, in the 5G era, a full-scale mobile phone should support GSM/GPRS. , WCDMA, CDMA2000 (1XAdv/EV-DORev.A/B), GSM/GPRS/EDGE, UMTS (WCDMA/TD-SCDMA), LTE (LTE-FDD/LTE-TDD), 5G, etc., the baseband chip complexity is increasing .
Yao Jiayang, an analyst at TrendForce Research Institute, told the First Financial Reporter that 5G Modem first needs advanced process support, and at the same time, it must be backward compatible with 2G/3G/4G frequency bands. Expanding the frequency band, for example, the support range of 4 GHz to 6 GHz, in the 4G era, when multi-frequency multi-mode support is already difficult, the increase of the frequency band does increase the design difficulty. Moreover, when the thickness of the 5G mobile phone and the space of the fuselage are still relatively limited, how to reduce the size of the 5G Modem to a certain extent is also one of the technical difficulties.
He believes that for Intel, the possibility of opt-out may be due to several reasons. First, the XMM8160's performance is not as good as Apple's expectations, and second, to avoid Intel's lack of capacity at 10 nanometers, although Intel has not announced the XMM8160 adoption. The process node, if still using 14 nanometers, performance and size performance may not be as good as Qualcomm's 7nm process X55, but if using 10nm process, if Intel determines mass production 10nm process, and Intel has decided to obtain Apple 5G mobile phone Orders, this is bound to crowd out the capacity planning of Intel's other 10 nanometer products, when the second wave of insufficient capacity is likely to be staged again.
In addition, as process technology continues to evolve, the cost of research and development of advanced chip handsets has increased exponentially. If there is no large user dilution, the cost of chips will rise linearly. Huawei has revealed to the media that the 7-nanometer Kirin 980 research and development costs far exceed the industry's estimate of 500 million US dollars, a Spreadtrum staff told reporters that (5GModem) research and development costs in hundreds of millions of dollars, the optical film is particularly expensive And the team's continuous investment, the cumulative number of engineers involved in the project has thousands.
"The Battle of the Dragon Elephant"
From 2G to 4G, many chip manufacturers including Freescale, ADI, Texas Instruments, Broadcom, NVIDIA, Marvell and others have gradually withdrawn from the baseband market. In the 5G era, surviving manufacturers will face more severe market environment competition. .
Yao Jiayang told reporters that due to the development of 5G Modem, at least the 12-nanometer process takes off, so it is definitely a money-burning game. Although Apple still has the opportunity to adhere to the development of self-developed chips in the long run, the combination of Qualcomm's reconciliation and Intel's withdrawal also indicates that the development of 5G Modem is not easy. In the next two or three years, it is difficult to see the possibility of Apple launching its own 5GModem.
According to the research of StrategyAnalytics, a market research organization, the top five global baseband chips in 2017 were occupied by Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung LSI, Huawei Hisilicon and Ziguang Zhanrui, and Intel ranked sixth. Specifically, Qualcomm's share of baseband revenue increased to 53% in 2017, followed by MediaTek (16%) and Samsung LSI (12%). From the perspective of mobile phone shipments last year, the shipments of Huawei HiSilicon in 2018 will be much higher than the figure in 2017.
In addition, it is worth noting that at present, the above manufacturers have released 5G baseband chips, while Huawei and Qualcomm are racing faster.
In January of this year, Huawei officially released two 5G chips, one of which is the terminal 5G baseband chip Baron 5000, which uses a 7-nanometer process. At that time, Qualcomm has not released the second generation X55. Compared with the X50, the Baron 5000 supports both NSA and SA networking modes, and supports 2G/3G/4G/5G multiple networks with better performance. Barron 5000 and X55 belong to the same generation of products. From the parameters of the published networking mode and download rate, the two products have their own merits.
Although the Baron 5000 is mainly used internally by Huawei mobile phones, it is not available externally. However, as Huawei's mobile phone market share continues to rise, it will also drive its chip market share to a certain extent. In February, Huawei's first 5G folding screen mobile phone HUAWEIMateX was released globally, equipped with Baron 5000, and is expected to be available for sale in June this year.
Qualcomm's X55 is sampling to customers, and it is expected that 5G terminals using the Xiaolong X55 will be available by the end of this year or early next year. During the MWC, Qualcomm also announced the launch of its first 5G integrated mobile platform. Qualcomm senior vice president and general manager of 4G/5G business Ma Dejia said that the SoC (system-on-chip) will begin to sample customers in the second quarter of this year, and commercial terminals are expected to be available in the first half of 2020. From the mobile phone side, mobile phone products equipped with Qualcomm 5G chips are expected to be listed in the middle of the year.
Other chip makers are more optimistic about 2020. Chen Guanzhou, general manager of MediaTek, said in an interview with the media that the opportunity for 5G converters will occur in 2020, and 5G will bring a wave of exchanges in 2020. He believes that 5G chips are still immature and need to be resolved this year.
However, as the chip industry enters the oligarchic battle, the looting of technical resources is becoming more intense.
Although Samsung used to be the OEM of Apple's A series processors, with the entry of TSMC, the process technology was gradually abandoned, and Qualcomm gradually shifted from Samsung OEM to TSMC. TSMC 7nm is expected to receive more than 50 this year. The project is adopted and the annual revenue will exceed 10%.
“It’s generally a mass production company that dares to officially release it.” A person in charge of MediaTek said, “The current industry’s expectations for 5G chips are high, and every manufacturer wants to grab the first.” Huawei’s responsible person People said to reporters: "Users really use it to be commercial, and the sooner they are released, the more they prevail."
In any case, the mobile communication baseband market is a long-distance running, and it is impossible to follow the team. For any chip manufacturer, the technical dispute in the future 5G field is a battle of life and death.