Report calls out Huawei's 5G modem chip for its size and inefficiency

Report calls out Huawei's 5G modem chip for its size and inefficiency
A new report from analytical firm IHS Markit (via Venture Beat) reveals that Huawei's 5G modem chip, like the one it is employing on the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, is inefficient and too large. This has resulted in the production of a device that is bigger and less energy efficient than it could have been. The phone, the manufacturer's first to support the next generation of wireless connectivity, is powered by the company's own Kirin 980 SoC and also is equipped with its in-house Balong 5000 5G modem chip. Both were designed by Huawei's Hi-Silicon unit but manufactured by foundry TSMC.

One issue is that the Balong 5000 5G modem chip is the first commercially available smartphone modem chip to support 5G/4G/3G/2G. That normally would be considered a good thing. However, the Kirin 980 SoC features its own integrated 4G/3G/2G modem chip which the report calls "unused and unnecessary" on the Mate 20 X. The Balong 5G modem chip also has a 50% larger die size (the part of the silicon wafer used for one chip) than the Qualcomm X50 5G modem and the Samsung Exynos 5100 5G modem. The Baloong 5G modem chip also requires 3GB of RAM and does not support mmWave 5G spectrum.

But this inefficiency won't last too long. The report says that by next year, smartphone processors will have integrated 5G/4G/3G/2G multimode modems. This could lead to lower prices for 5G handsets since a separate modem won't be necessary. This will also eliminate the need for memory and power management chips that were being used just for the 5G modem chip. And lower prices will lead to more widespread adoption of 5G.

Huawei did some things right, says the report. Even though there is some duplication between the Balong 5G modem chip and the integrated modem inside the Kirin 980, the Mate 20 X 5G relies on just one modem (the Balong 5G modem chip). However, it does have separate 4G and 5G radio tuners, something IHS Markit expects to be integrated into one radio in the future.

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13 Comments

1. Phonehex

Posts: 759; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

5G wont be a thing until 2021.

4. Deadeye

Posts: 37; Member since: Jul 26, 2019

For Apple maybe.

7. blingblingthing

Posts: 946; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

Exactly. They'll come late to the party and users will claim others are following them.

11. oldskool50

Posts: 1352; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

He is talking about it being mainstream. It's gonna take a few years for 5G to be available everywhere. In NY, there is literally one building that has 5G and when you walk outside, you no longer have access. Buying a 5G phone now is dumb. But people buying 5G hardware to build a 5G network is a different story.

12. oldskool50

Posts: 1352; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

They are chip-sets to build 5G equipment. Not phones.

2. mootu

Posts: 1500; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

"does not support mmWave 5G spectrum." Because it's not destined for the US market and the US are the ones using mmwave, rest of the world is not.

3. Kohai

Posts: 50; Member since: Jun 04, 2010

5G is absolutely overkill in a phone, period (unless you are playing fps on it, because of its ultra low latency). Another necessity manufacturers have created that we actually do not need but will make us renew our phones cause "5G is soooo fast" This reminds me of 1Gbps fiber connection at home...what for?

8. blingblingthing

Posts: 946; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

Technology is always unneeded until it's common. Remember what Apple said about screens over 3.5"? What about a stylus? With tech becoming cheaper, why not pack a few things we didn't need earlier?

9. cmdacos

Posts: 4111; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

So was 4G, so was 3G. It's called progress.

13. Kohai

Posts: 50; Member since: Jun 04, 2010

Don't get me wrong ;-) I'm not saying that 5G is not an advance but in a phone, today, and next year, and the year after is not needed at all. With 4G/LTE you can already download content faster than you can consume it (4k streaming is about 30Mbps) Why would you need 5G in your phone in the short term? There are lots of other uses for 5G that really improve actual technology like in autonomous car driving or industrial manufacturing (Industry 3.0 they call it) but not in a phone nowadays. That's my point they are putting it in phones so they induce the masses to renew them cause if not they would render obsolete. Here in these forums the people is not representative of the regular phone user, they are less informed and more easily convinced.

5. w1000i

Posts: 242; Member since: Jul 22, 2015

It is the best in the business but in the us they can't get it

6. UglyFrank

Posts: 2193; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

We should be happy that 5G advancements are being made, innovation in one area triggers innovation in other areas. Don't upgrade early for 5G but expect your future phone to be a 5G phone.

10. TBomb

Posts: 1402; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

If the health concerns surrounding 5G are real and serious, i'd rather avoid it. I see the benefits of it - being able to process data faster so we can have more devices connected and do more with them - but if everyone ends up dead because of it, that's not cool.

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