Semiconductor Giants Add Building Blocks for 5G Adoption

There were three key announcements from semiconductor giants Qualcomm and MediaTek during IFA 2020. On the smartphone side, Qualcomm brought 5G into its 4-series platform for entry-level smartphones. The company also rolled out an update to its 5G 8cx compute platform for 2-in-1 laptops. MediaTek continues to look for 5G business opportunities beyond smartphones in 2021. It launched a 5G single chip solution built for CPE and Mifi 5G home broadband products.

Qualcomm Brings 5G to $125 Price Level in Smartphones in Q1 2021

This is a very steep and fast price erosion, given that we are only 18 months into 5G sales. Considering China 5G sell-through has eclipsed 60% of sales; US carriers will have over 200 million POPs covered by the year end (T-Mobile already at over 250 million); and 35 countries already selling 5G devices, getting to the sub-$150 price point is significant. These price points will allow global carriers to really push adoption and sales, and begin seeing returns on their massive 5G investments.

The spec details will be available soon as OEMs roll out products as early as Q1 2021. Three heavyweight OEMs have announced adoption of the Snapdragon 4-series mobile platform — Motorola, OPPO and Xiaomi. Specs used to take two to three years to fall from premium to entry. Today, it is between one year and 18 months. Expect mmWave to hit the 4-series by H2 2021 or early 2022.

COVID-19 Drives Utility of Windows on Snapdragon PC Platform

Qualcomm also announced its second generation 5G 8cx 5G compute platform. This platform targets users seeking safe and seamless cellular network connectivity and ‘i5-like’ PC horsepower. There will be a large increase in remote working even after the COVID-19 era. A mobile, light and always connected PC with up to a week’s worth of battery life has become a critical piece of hardware.

The newest improvements include Wifi6 via Qualcomm’s FastConnect6800 mobile connectivity subsystem. There is also enterprise grade security and AI acceleration. Maybe most appropriate for the times is improved camera quality for video calls. The Aqstic audio platform brings hifi audio and noise cancellation.

Acer announced it has partnered with Qualcomm to launch its first Windows on Snapdragon PC. Acer will market the product that offers high speeds, multi-day battery life and a light/sleek fanless design. We suspect Samsung, Lenovo, Microsoft, Asus, HP and others will also roll out designs with this latest compute platform. It may not happen this year, but this space could really take off if smartphone OEMs jump into it.

MediaTek Unveils T750 for 5G Home Broadband CPE/Mifi  

MediaTek unveiled its single chipset solution targeted at home broadband CPE and Mifi equipment. This is timely, considering the needs of work-from-home and school-from-home brought on by COVID-19. In the US, the FCC points out, over 40 million citizens do not have a broadband option. Such a situation is commonplace across the globe, with many countries having poor coverage and/or poor performance in broadband options. As 5G rolls out, 5G consumer premises equipment (CPE) will be a cost-effective and quick-to-implement broadband solution that avoids costly digging for fiber. Global operators consider fixed wireless access as a new revenue stream. Look for them to get far more aggressive with rollouts late in 2020 and into 2021.

The specs:

  • Sub6/mid-band support; CA support
  • Low power and efficiency due to 7nm process
  • 2x 2.5GB Ethernet support
  • Supports 30 plus users, ample for homes and SMBs
  • NSA and CA support

Linksys and Belken have announced hardware with the T750. More OEMs will be making announcements before the end of the year.

These semiconductor announcements are important for global mobile operators and will ensure 5G will roll out much faster than 4G. 5G chipsets are seeing much faster cost erosion than seen during 4G. There are also new 5G use cases such as fixed wireless broadband and 5G-enabled PC’s in much lower price tiers than seen in 4G. These catalysts will enable global operators to better compete for new business revenue streams.