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Huawei unveils first 5G chip in challenge to Qualcomm and Intel and says 5G phone coming this year

Arjun Kharpal
  • Huawei unveiled its first chip to enable mobile devices to access 5G internet speeds at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
  • The chipset is called the Huawei Balong 5G01.
  • Huawei claims that it's the world's first commercial chipset that meets 5G standards.
  • Richard Yu, the head of Huawei's consumer business group, said the company is aiming to launch a 5G phone with the new chipset in the second half of the year.

Huawei on Sunday unveiled its first chip to enable mobile devices to access 5G internet speeds and revealed plans to launch a 5G smartphone in the second half of the year.

The chipset is called the Huawei Balong 5G01. The Chinese technology giant claims that it is the world's first commercial chipset that meets 5G standards.

3GPP, a body that governs cellular standards globally, agreed late last year to a specification for how 5G should work. 5G refers to the next generation of mobile internet that could help power future driverless cars and even internet-connected infrastructure in cities.

Huawei claims that it can hit download speeds of 2.3 gigabits per second, significantly faster than speeds reached on current 4G networks.

At a briefing with reporters after the reveal , Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei's consumer business said the company is aiming to launch a 5G phone with the new chipset in the second half of the year.

"Later on in Q3 or Q4 of this year we will launch the 5G smartphone with the 5G smartphone chipset. And our infrastructure, the 5G infrastructure is readily available to commercialize," Yu said.

By releasing its own 5G chip, Huawei is taking on the likes of Qualcomm QCOM , which already has its own modem called the X50. Qualcomm's modem for mobile devices recently managed to hit speeds of 4.51 gigabits per second.

And earlier this week Intel INTC announced a partnership with Microsoft MSFT , Dell, HP HPQ , and Lenovo 992-HK to create 5G-enabled laptops based on Intel's own modems.

Owning the chipset capabilities will allow Huawei to have more control over the design and performance of its devices. It also means it may have to rely less on external suppliers. Huawei has been focusing recently on its own chips. Last year it launched a chipset called the Kirin 970 to allow artificial intelligence experiences on its smartphones. It is currently used in the Mate 10 Pro.

Yu said the company will not license its Balong 5G01 chipset to rival device makers.

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