OPPO shut down its chip subsidiary; New material breakthrough for 6G; BYD chairman called autonomous driving "nonsense"; Li Auto expand to chip design - China Tech Digest #2
Companies covered in this issue include: Huawei, OPPO, Lenovo, Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba, Li Auto, BYD, ByteDance
A key question for China’s growth story for the next decade will be how well China’s tech sector, especially the so-called “hard tech” (as opposed to consumer internet), can develop into a globally advanced level. However, a considerable amount of high-quality content in China resides in the Chinese-language world and is neither reported by mainstream Western media nor easily searchable. China Tech News Digest is a curated series that provides the most important trends and updates on China's public companies and industry leaders.
We monitor and scan information in these less accessible domains under-reported by mainstream media, but are still worth your attention. This includes millions of articles published by professionals, independent journalists, industry experts, and analysts on platforms such as WeChat official accounts.
Industries covered in this issue:
Automotive / Autonomous driving
Huawei: Huawei has applied for a semiconductor packaging invention patent that provides an alternative molding solution, aiming to reduce costs and improve the efficient and reliable manufacturing of semiconductor packaging. This move is part of Huawei's efforts to innovate in semiconductor packaging and mitigate the impact of US chip sanctions. [source]
On May 12, Chinese consumer electronics and mobile maker OPPO abruptly shut down its chip development subsidiary, ZEKU, resulting in over 3,000 employees losing their jobs. The closure came as a surprise to employees, with no prior warning or indication. The sudden decision has raised speculation about the reasons behind it.
"Yesterday we were still rushing to meet the deadline, and today the company is closed," said Chen Jia, who works in the ZEKU mixed-signal department.
ZEKU, established in 2019, is a chip-focused subsidiary of OPPO with seven research and development centers worldwide. It has grown to a scale of around 3,000 employees, with many of the employees coming from Huawei HiSilicon, Unigroup Guoxin (002049.SH), and some semiconductor companies in Taiwan. About 80% of the employees hold master's or doctoral degrees from well-known universities, and 40% of the engineers have more than 10 years of experience. As ZEKU was laying off employees, Huawei held an emergency job fair to quickly recruit people.
Zeku CEO Jun Liu: “The global economy and the mobile phone industry are extremely pessimistic now, and the company's entire revenue is far below expectations, so in this situation, such a huge investment in chips will be something the company cannot afford, so I have to make an announcement here with regret: After careful discussion, the company has decided to close Zeku and terminate its self-developed chip business.”
China is on track to introduce early 6G mobile applications by 2025 and roll out commercial services by 2030 [source]. The main difference between 6G and 5G lies in the communication frequency bands: while 5G mainly operates in the gigahertz (GHz) range, 6G will expand into the terahertz (THz) range. Challenges in 6G development include the need for electromagnetic shielding materials that can cover a wide frequency range, from gigahertz to terahertz, and withstand demanding usage environments, such as extreme temperatures, salt spray, and bending.
To address this challenge, researchers at Nankai University in China have developed a new type of electromagnetic functional material using MXene, a two-dimensional material, and polymers. The resulting composite film offers high-frequency compatibility and shielding performance, mechanical strength, and stability in harsh environments. The material is expected to be used for 6G base stations and electronic devices.
💡 Why we think it’s important:
Countries around the world are actively developing 6G technology. It is expected to be officially put into commercial applications around 2030 according to market predictions.
In October 2020, the United States established the "US 6G Alliance" with companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Nokia to promote research and deployment in the field of 6G.
Research teams, including one from Nagoya University in Japan, have studied and experimented with urban 6G communication networks.
China has included the development of 6G network technology in its "14th Five-Year Plan" and "2035 Long-Term Vision Outline." It has also established a national 6G technology research and development working group.
In 2021, Huawei conducted the world's first trial operation of a 6G network.
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