Baloon is a snowy mountain located in Dingzhi County, Tibet, at an altitude of 7013 meters. In 2007, when Huawei began to attack chip solutions, internal researchers likened to climbing a snowy mountain, needing a step-by-step footprint to conquer, so Baron became the huawei chip family’s base-belt chip name, the equivalent of “Big Brother.”
After Baloon, Huawei developed other chips, in the order of birth, Kirin is the second, Ling Is the old three, Ascend is the old four, Yu Peng is the old five, after many years of iteration, Huawei in the fierce chip competition has the ability to today.
This capability in the 5G era gave Huawei more room for research and development, in addition to mobile phones alone, in addition to not relying on Qualcomm’s chip rhythm, in terms of cost and application debugging, but also more autonomy. “If you want to do a better product, chip self-study is a must, although the investment is huge, but in the industry, gradually become a consensus.” “A domestic mobile phone manufacturer in charge of the first financial reporter said.
Over the past decade, the more they rely on the wealth accumulated by the demographic dividend, the more they need to be used in the downturn, the head of the manufacturers said. “We didn’t do it in the past, but now we have to do it. “You can see that head handset makers, including Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo, are investing at the chip level or early or late.
But from a cost point of view, chips are a capital-intensive industry, and as process technology continues to evolve, the cost of advanced chip mobile phone research and development increases exponentially, if there are no large number of users diluted costs, chip costs will skyrocket. Huawei has revealed to the media that 7nm Kirin 980 research and development costs far exceedthe industry estimates of 500 million U.S. dollars, a staff member told reporters that (5G base belt) research and development costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars, light stream slot on the special fee, as well as the team’s continuous investment, the cumulative participation in the project engineers have thousands of people.
In other words, it is destined to be a hard-core battle between funding and research and development capabilities.
Ten million dollars of water drift?
5G application can not be separated from the chip, and the daily use of consumers are closely related to 5G terminal equipment, especially 5G mobile phones, the most critical is 5G baseband chip.
But this market has never been short of fallers. In April, after Qualcomm and Apple reached a settlement, Intel announced it was pulling out of its 5G smartphone modem business, meaning there was one fewer player in the global 5G smartphone baseband chip business.
From the point of view of industry competition, each generation of communication technology changes, accompanied by the shuffle of mobile phone brands, at the same time, the chip manufacturers behind the phone will also re-divide the power. 5G smartphone baseband chips carry the burden of competing for the right to speak for the next generation of mobile terminals, but subject to multiple factors such as technology and market, the only only global competition can be qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei, MediaTek and The U.S.
“Baseband chip development is not the same as the application processor (AP), it requires long-term accumulation, without more than 10 years of accumulation simply can not do. Wang Yuan, head of UNISOC’s communications team, said, “There is not only 5G in the 5G chip, it also needs to support a variety of 2G/3G/4G models at the same time, without the accumulation of 2G to 4G communication technology can not directly carry out 5G research and development.” It will take at least five years for every communication model to be developed from scratch to stability. The GSM rate may seem low on the surface, but in fact the complexity is not low. And technology alone is not yet possible, but also requires a lot of manpower and time to conduct field testing with the global network. ”
In Wang Yuan’s view, designing a chip, not to talk about standards, only from the algorithm to mass production takes three years. To catch up with Qualcomm, it is necessary to shorten the iteration cycle, so every link needs to work together, only the division of labor as a team, the need for standard, algorithm baseband chip, RF chip, physical layer software, protocol stack software, testing, subdivided into various specific areas. “Team experience is milled out, not that the company to recruit a group of technical experts can handle 5G technology, but also have to have the relevant team experience, the team must have been very tacit understanding.” ”
A research and development engineer of the top chip manufacturer in China told the first financial reporter: “The cost of doing chips is too high, especially to do mobile phone SoC has a lot of modules, in addition to radio frequency, WiFi, as well as photography, voice, display, fingerprint identification and other functional modules, how do you make it into a low power consumption, cost competitive, And then to be able to go to PK products with the industry, need trial and error and constant iteration, which requires a lot of time and money. ”
“Doing chips and other hardware is too hard, the income is not high, many excellent students after graduation to engage in finance and the Internet. Horizon chip a person in charge is more blunt, at present, an ordinary chip design company to do SoC chip, about a project needs 10 million dollars, “once the market positioning is not allowed, the money all water drift.” ”
Fund the underlying foundation for “future space”
Despite the huge investment, the pace of investment in chips by handset makers is still accelerating.
In September this year, vivo Shanghai Research and Development Center was located in Pudong Software Park, located at 57 Boxia Road, Shanghai, just one road away from Qualcomm at 50 Boxia Road. An employee of Qualcomm commented that the mobile phone maker’s wealth is thick and is expected to provoke a new round of talent war to boost the pay levels of engineers. Two months later, Vivo’s vice president officially announced that it would launch the X30, the flagship phone with the Samsung Exynos 980, which, unlike in the past, was vivo’s first deep involvement in the front-end development phase of the chip.
Vivo Executive Vice President Hu Boshan previously told the first financial reporter at an event, in the past, upstream chip manufacturers will be locked specifications or even complete the first streaming after the product to work with the terminal manufacturers, and with the process difficulty, this time has been lengthy. “After the first stream came out, we went to talk about whether the specifications were appropriate, or how to change later, and if the consumer’s needs changed during that period, the price of this piece would be huge for both sides. ”
Hu Boshan believes that deep into the pre-chip definition stage, to identify the next different stages of computing requirements, manufacturers now need to have some layout.
Also with the same idea is OPPO. Not long ago, OPPO founder, president and CEO Chen Mingyong publicly announced that in the next three years, 50 billion yuan of research and development, in addition to continuous attention to 5G/6G, artificial intelligence, AR, big data and other cutting-edge technologies, but also to build the core of the underlying hardware technology and software engineering and system capabilities.
Previously, OPPO posted positions of chip design engineer on a number of industry recruitment websites, including SOC design engineer, chip digital circuit design engineer, chip verification engineer, chip front-end design engineer, and on September 18 last year, “Integrated circuit design and service” Incorporated into the Shanghai Yusheng Communications Technology Co., Ltd. business projects. Tian’s information query shows that Shanghai Sheng Communication Technology Co., Ltd. was established in December 2017, by OPPO Guangdong Mobile Communications Co., Ltd. 100% shareholding. By the end of 2018, the number of employees at Yusheng Communications has reached 150, according to public social security data.
Xiaomi and Huawei have an earlier layout in mobile phone chips.
In February 2017, Xiaomi released its first processor, s1, and in April this year, the PineO Electronics team responsible for Xiaomi’s chip development broke up the new company, Nanjing BigFish Semiconductor, and raised it independently. Huawei HiSilicon’ history dates back more than 20 years. In 1991, Huawei established the ASIC Design Center, which can be seen as Ahes’s predecessor, mainly designing chips for Huawei’s communications equipment.
“Ten years ago are all labels, or Qualcomm, MediaTek, exhibition of these chip manufacturers directly to provide a set of ready-made reference design, mobile phone manufacturers slightly changed can be sold. In the last five years, the competition of mobile phones has become the core technology, that is, the competition of the whole industry chain integration capability. An insider told reporters that from a trend point of view, the future in the Internet of Things and sub-sectors, mobile phone manufacturers for chips and other core technology will undoubtedly be more conducive to building more competitive products, but also in exchange for “future space” an investment.
But some industry insiders say they do not understand. “The premise of corner overtaking is that everyone is on the same starting line. “A domestic chip manufacturer’s head said that chip research and development needs to be more pragmatic, building brick by brick.
“There are some companies doing chips now, which I think is a good thing in essence. If it doesn’t pay attention, your cooperation with him will always be shallow. “In the face of the entry of mobile phone manufacturers, UNISOC CEO Chu Qing said in a media interview, mobile phone manufacturers’ modelist is short-cycle, and chips are long-cycle, these two different models to be compatible with the same company, it is still difficult.