Huawei might lose HiSilicon Kirin processors with new US rules

JC Torres - May 17, 2020, 7:42 pm CDT
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Huawei might lose HiSilicon Kirin processors with new US rules

Huawei will, for one more year, have to deal with the effects of remaining on the US’ Entity List, effectively barring it from access to US products and technologies. All throughout last year’s drama, Huawei remained proud in affirming its independence and its capability to make its own products, especially its own mobile processor via HiSilicon’s Kirin. The US Commerce Department, however, has now seeking to block even the latter which could eventually leave Huawei with no processors to use for its new phones in the near future.

The Commerce Department’s new rules would require companies to request for a license before they sell semiconductors or even chip designs to Huawei or any of its affiliates, including HiSilicon. This would apply even if the materials are headed for some fabricator like, say TSMC, if the end product will land in Huawei’s hands anyway.

The US government’s stated goal with these restrictions has always been about national security and, in this latest case, prioritizing American companies. While not exactly a ban, it would require companies on both sides of the globe to bend over backward to get a license.

The immediate effect of this new rule would be Huawei’s potential loss of access to Kirin chips when it already has no access to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. While it would be possible for HiSilicon to source components and materials outside of the US, it would take time to rebuild the entire toolchain and pipeline.

But Huawei won’t be the only one affected by this new rule. TSMC says that foundries outside of the US like itself will definitely feel the burden more than US companies like Qualcomm, which is precisely the bias that the US government wants. However, in due time even US companies might suffer when those outside the country have established alternative suppliers and tools to prevent having to even ask for a restrictive license.


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