Xiaomi and OPPO join forces with UNISOC to develop in-house 5G chips

Highlights
  • Xiaomi and OPPO will work with UNISOC to manufacture in-house chipsets. 
  • They will be 5G-ready and support the widely used sub-6GHz networks. 
  • We can expect to see the chipsets in action by the end of 2021, or early 2022.

Xiaomi is no stranger to developing smartphone chipsets in-house. However, the endeavour was somewhat of a failure prompting Xiaomi to focus on more important things. The global semiconductor shortage may have prompted Xiaomi to resurrect the long-dead project. This time around OPPO has joined in, too, if a new report from Digitimes is to be believed. Both companies are joining forces with UNISOC for the endeavour. The trifecta will focus on the production of sub-6GHz 5G modems for their smartphones. However, they still have to rely on fabs such as TSMC, Samsung and Global Foundries for the actual manufacturing

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Given that TSMC and Samsung are already up to their noses in orders, OPPO, Xiaomi and UNISOC might have to look at other fabs for their needs. China-based SMIC could be of assistance here. It already has a 7nm process node up and running, which should be more than capable of manufacturing mid-range chipsets. The silicon should be ready by late 2021, or early 2022, the report adds. However, it is also worth noting that SMIC is also on the U.S. government’s entity list. 

UNISOC has secured an additional CNY 5.35 billion (US$817.20 million) for the endeavour, which will also be used towards expanding its existing line of hardware. UNISOC (formerly known as Spreadtrum) was unable to compete against the times on Qualcomm, MediaTek and HiSilocon. This new partnership with Xiaomi and OPPO could be the shot in the arm it requires to get competitive again. It could even open up new opportunities for UNISOC to supply chipsets to Huawei, which hasn’t been able to manufacture its Kirin chipsets due to the ongoing sanctions.