5G Modems & Processors Shipments Saw a Huge Rise

Article By :  John Walko

The number of 5G modems shipped last year more than doubled compared with the previous 12 months, and there was a nine-fold increase in the volume of mobile processors.

The number of discrete 5G modems shipped last year more than doubled compared with the previous 12 months, and there was a nine-fold increase in the volume of mobile processors sold over the same period, according to the  Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

And, as of this month, according to the survey, there were 29 commercially available 5G mobile processors/platforms on the market and 11 commercially available discrete 5G modems.

(Source: GSA)

The analysis has in the past been an excellent indicator of the technologies included in and the number of shipment of mobile devices.

The GSA says there are five significant suppliers of 5G chipsets: Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, Hi-Silicon (Huawei) and Tsinghua Group (UNISOC, formerly Spreadtrum).

All five are said to be expanding their product ranges.

The survey has also identified 29 commercially available 5G mobile processors/platforms and 11 commercially available discrete 5G modems from the chip companies noted above. The Association has also identified one pre-commercial modem and three pre-commercial processor/platforms for the fast growing 5G market, but does not name the companies.

The January 2021 survey also reveals that for LTE silicon, excluding the 5G-capable chipsets that will also support LTE, there were 19 commercially available discrete cellular LTE modem chipsets from five vendors: Qualcomm, Hi-Silicon, Samsung and Tsinghua, as well as Sanechips (formerly ZTE Microelectronics).

Of course other modems are available, but these are integrated with other processors in a variety of mobile platforms.

The largest category of chipsets in the GSA database is of course LTE mobile processors/platforms. Indeed the database shows 178 that are commercially available — other than those specifically designed for IoT applications and also excluding those that are 5G capable.

5G modem

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System

The vendors include GCT, Hi-Silicon, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Sequans, Samsung, Leadcore, Sony Semiconductor Israel (formerly Altair) Tsinghua, Innofidei, and Xiaomi.

The GSA also tracks the market for some specific LTE features. For instance, the report notes that as of January 2021, there were 17 processor /platforms and discrete cellular modems supporting VoLTE and eMBMS (LTE Broadcast/Multicast), and five that support LTE in unlicensed spectrum.

The survey noted that there are other mobile processors/platforms in the pipeline, notably from Qualcomm, GCT and Tsinghua, but these were not included in the analysis.

And it should be noted that the GSA does not track baseband processors, DSPs, or separate RF front-end transceivers, nor silicon specifically designed for base-stations.

The database does, however, include chipsets targeting enterprise and residential small cells, as well as those for Fixed Wireless Applications, since these are categorised as devices.

Commenting on the update, Joe Barrett, President of the GSA, said the analysis is “encouraging”, and that as an industry “we can only be excited about the opportunities that 2021 will bring.”

He also noted that 5G silicon status “is a great indicator of the underlying health of the wider 5G ecosystem.”

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