The United States government has cast doubt on Huawei’s mass production new-generation smartphones or produce them in substantial quantities. This skepticism arose in response to the release of the Mate 60 Pro, which is believed to utilize relatively advanced (7nm) chips produced by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC).
Challenges to Huawei’s Chip Production
Gina Raimondo, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, expressed her reservations about Huawei’s capability to manufacture 7nm chips on a large scale. During a congressional hearing, she stated, “We have not found evidence that they can mass-produce 7nm chips.”
It’s important to note that 7nm chips represent technology that is roughly two generations behind companies like Apple and Qualcomm, which are already utilizing 5nm and 4nm architectures. Kim Yang-paeng, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, commented that the Mate 60 Pro showcases China’s ability to produce 7nm chips using older machinery.
There are strong suspicions that SMIC, the Chinese company manufacturing the 7nm chips, may have used deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography machines from a Dutch company, ASML. These machines were originally designed for chip production above 10nm, and forcing them to produce 7nm chips could lead to a high failure rate.
Since 2019, the United States has severed Huawei’s ties with chip technology providers, considering the Chinese company a national security threat with the potential to conduct espionage through U.S. telecommunications networks.
Ongoing U.S. Investigations
The U.S. Department of Commerce is continuing its investigations into entities that might be violating trade sanctions, potentially enabling Huawei to produce these chips. Raimondo expressed her frustration when reading reports about Huawei’s utilization of advanced chips.
In response to these developments, some members of the U.S. Congress have recommended that the Department of Commerce prohibit the export of technology in any form to both Huawei and SMIC. However, Raimondo has refrained from commenting on this specific request.
The controversy surrounding Huawei’s smartphone chip production raises questions about the company’s access to advanced technology and its ability to produce these chips on a large scale. With the United States closely monitoring and investigating potential violations of trade sanctions, the future of Huawei’s chip procurement remains uncertain.
These developments underscore the ongoing tensions between the United States and Huawei, reflecting broader concerns about national security and technological competitiveness in the global telecommunications industry.