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Unisoc Joins 5G-Smartphone Race

March 31, 2020

Author: Mike Demler

By announcing the Tiger T7520, Unisoc aims to continue its transformation from a supplier of low-end smartphone chips to a competitor in the mid-premium segment. The T7520 is its first processor to integrate a 5G baseband, and it’s also the first announced product to employ 6nm EUV technology at TSMC. During its transformation, Unisoc has announced new chips at least six months before first silicon, and true to form, it withheld a planned production date and detailed specifications for the T7520. But because TSMC just began 6nm risk production in 1Q20, we expect the 5G processor won’t enter volume production until at least 4Q20. The first phones using the T7520 are likely to arrive in 1Q21.

The T7520 offers several enhancements over the T7510, which Unisoc unveiled in February, including dynamic 4G/5G spectrum sharing, TDD/FDD spectrum aggregation, and the ability to decouple the downlink and uplink. Decoupling lets network operators use different base stations for the downlink and uplink, enabling speed optimization in both directions. In addition to its more advanced manufacturing process, the chip boasts a CPU upgrade and a new deep-learning accelerator (DLA), as well as improved camera, display, and video subsystems.

As operators in China and elsewhere add FDD channels to their 5G mix, the TD7520 will be attractive to handset OEMs targeting these operators. But by the time the first T7520-powered phones arrive, MediaTek and Qualcomm will likely have introduced new lower-cost 5G processors as well, pushing the T7520 into the midrange tier. 

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