With Huawei and 70 of its affiliates now requiring US government approval to buy parts from the US, the company no longer has to worry about accessing Qualcomm's SanCo SoCs. That's because Huawei is developing its own chips for the company's high-end handsets. The next such chip, the Hi-Silicon Kirin 985, should come out in the second half of the year. According to Digitimes, the Kirin 985 is designed for Huawei's 4G LTE phones. The chip, however, can be equipped with the Huawei's own Balong 5G modem. This allows Kirin 985 phones to connect to 5G and 6GHz mobile networks.
The Kirin 985 chipset with the 5G Balong modem will first appear on the Huawei Mate 30 line in the fourth quarter of this year. The chip is manufactured by TSMC in 7nm + mode. Test productions are planned for this quarter. By the third quarter of this year, the Kirin 985 will be delivered by volume from the TSMC production lines.
Following the release of the Kirin 985, Huawei is expected to launch 5G SoCs with integrated 5G modem. These chips are expected to hit the market between late 2019 and early 2020. In early next year, Huawei also plans to offer chips for smartphones that support mmWave 5G connectivity. The latter uses very high frequency radio signals in the range of 24 GHz to 90 GHz. While mmWave 5G speeds could be faster than those achieved via air waves below 6GHz, the wavelengths are shorter. As a result, building a 5G nationwide network of less than 6GHz will take less time. For this reason, T-Mobile expects to be the first in the US next year with a 5G platform running from coast to coast using only sub-6GHz.
According to sources cited by Digitimes, Huawei's Hi-Silicon device plans to compete with Qualcomm to become one of the top two suppliers of 5G SoCs to phone manufacturers. The report notes that MediaTek will have a 5G chipset for sub 6GHz smartphones before the end of this year. Apple is expected to develop a 5G SoC in time for the launch of the 2020 iPhone models.
Huawei offered to sell its 5G Balong modem chips last month
The roadmap of Huawei is not unique. Other global chip designers are to develop mobile device chipsets that can be made with a 4G or 5G modem chip as the slow migration from 4G to 5G begins. Starting next year, these companies will offer 5G SoCs with integrated 5G modem chips and chips supporting mmWave 5G.
The Huawei Mate X will be the company's first 5G phone using a Kirin 980 SoC with a 5G modem chip
Interestingly, Huawei offered to sell Apple its Balong 5G modem chip last month. This happened at a time when Apple was not sure from which company it would refer the component. Due to his legal disputes with Qualcomm, Apple appeared determined to use Intel-developed 5G modem chips. Still, there were questions as to whether Intel could deliver them in time for a launch in 2020, prompting Apple to talk to Samsung and MediaTek. Finally, the company reached an agreement with Qualcomm, which provided for a multi-year supply contract for the 5G smartphone modem of the chip manufacturer.
The first 5G phone from Huawei is, apart from delays like the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X. This is a foldable phone that folds out instead of like the Samsung device. The Mate X uses the same Kirin 980 SoC as the current P30, but includes a 5G Balong 5000 modem chip. The $ 2,600 device is unlikely to be seen in the US as President Trump is expected to sign a contract soon to ban Huawei's entry into the US.