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While under US sanctions, where did Huawei get the advanced chips for its latest Mate 60 Pro smartphone?


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1. SMIC, China’s largest chip maker, manufactured the chip for Huawei

This is the most plausible explanation, although both Huawei and Semiconductor International Manufacturing Corp (SMIC) declined to provide details. Based on tests conducted on the smartphone, Chinese benchmarking website AnTuTu identified the Mate 60 Pro’s CPU as Kirin 9000s from Huawei’s chip design unit. Hisilicon.

Research firm TechInsights said in a note on its WeChat account that SMIC used existing equipment and applied the second generation 7nm process, known as N+2 node, to manufacture the Kirin 9000s capable of supporting Huawei’s 5G networks. The California-based research firm said it will provide more details about the phone’s connection next week.

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If this is the case, it marks a “breakthrough” for China’s semiconductor industry and a big win for Huawei’s smartphone business.

However, under US sanctions, SMIC was not supposed to be able to make advanced chipsets for Huawei.

2. Huawei produced the chip using its own supply chain network

This is another possibility, which follows a report by Bloomberg, which cited the Washington-based Semiconductor Industry Association, as saying that the Chinese telecoms giant is building a secret supply chain for the chip industry by enlisting existing foundries to help it avoid US export controls. In this case, the chip inside the Mate 60 shows how Huawei has achieved quite a feat.

This is an unlikely scenario, but it fits the Chinese nationalist narrative that Huawei, after enduring the bullet for years under US sanctions, has finally defeated US restrictions.

Huawei Mate 60 Pro uses Kirin 9000s processor. Image: flyer

3. Huawei used its own stock of chips for the new phone

This interpretation means that the chips in the new Huawei phone are from stock, and were manufactured by the Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) before September 2020, when the United States doubled the sanctions to impose a comprehensive ban on Huawei and all its subsidiaries from accessing advanced technology. Chips. TSMC relies on US core technology to produce silicon wafers, and was therefore required to comply with the sanctions rule.

Huawei is known to have been stockpiling chips from its HiSilicon unit before TSMC cut ties to comply with US sanctions, and some analysts believe it may have used these old chips in the new phone, with some repackaging and modifications.

If this scenario is correct, it would mean that Huawei is still denied advanced chips under US sanctions.

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