The Huawei P50 series is officially released last week. Regrettably, whether it is equipped with a Kirin 9000 chip or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, the P50 series only supports 4G.
Why does Kirin 9000 support 5G in the Mate40 series, but not in the new P50 series? The problem lies in the core component of the 5G RF chip: the filter.
The part between the antenna and the RF integrated circuit responsible for signal transmission in the mobile phone RF chip is collectively referred to as the RF front-end. The RF front-end industry has undergone many mergers and acquisitions in history, and finally formed Skyworks, Qorvo, Murata, Avago, and Qualcomm as representative leading manufacturers. Chinese companies also have layouts in the RF front-end. For example, Comba Telecom, Maxscend Technologies, etc., can mass-produce 5G antennas and 5G RF switches.
However, the RF front-end has a core component called the filter. At present, the Chinese industry chain hits a bottleneck. American and Japanese manufacturers monopolize the global filter market, and Japanese manufacturers such as Murata also need to find Broadcom, AVAGO, and other foundries.
Filters are mainly divided into two types: Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) and Bulk Acoustic Waves (BAW). Due to various reasons such as performance and technology, the BAW filter has become the first choice for 5G mobile phones. The data shows that in the BAW market, Broadcom, AVAGO in the United States currently accounts for 87% of the market share, while Qorvo, another semiconductor company in the United States, has an 8% market share. In addition, SAW is also monopolized by the United States and Japan. In 2018, the global SAW filter market was almost monopolized by Japanese manufacturers. Murata accounted for 47% of the market share, and TDK Toden Chemical accounted for 21%. This means that the main technology of the core filter in the 5G radio frequency chip comes from the United States, which leads to the 5G defect of the Huawei P50 series.
In April 2021, the United States began the fourth round of sanctions against Huawei, restricting Huawei’s component suppliers to only products involving American technology and not allowing them to supply Huawei’s 5G equipment.
Huawei Mate40 series mobile phones were released (in October last year) before the above sanctions, so they are not affected by the sanctions. The Kirin 9000 onboard supports 5G and is a 5G chip, while the Kirin 9000 chip on the P50 series does not support 5G.
As for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip on the P50 series, because Qualcomm is an American company, almost all of the chip-related technology comes from the United States, so it is even more unlikely to support 5G functions.
As Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business at the P50 series conference last week, said, ‘Four rounds of sanctions in the United States restrict Huawei’s 5G mobile phones, resulting in 5G chips that can only be used as 4G.’ But at that time, Yu Chengdong only said something general about it. In short, he didn’t elaborate on the reason.
Under the four rounds of US sanctions, Huawei’s mobile phone business was completely suppressed, and even the chips that Huawei had hoarded before the chip supply was cut off on September 15 last year were also abandoned and could only be used as 4G chips.
‘The continued sanctions imposed by the United States have indeed brought great difficulties to Huawei’s production and operations. But how long the specific chips can last? The chips were just put into storage in September, and the data is still in the process of statistics and evaluation.’ After Huawei suffered a chip supply cut, on the morning of the 23rd, September 2020, Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping said so in interviews with some media.
However, it is worth mentioning that Huawei HiSilicon is currently studying SAW filters and is gradually improving the industry chain. We hope that Huawei can break through this restriction in the future, just as the theme of this press conference ‘Rebirth’.