September 26, 2023

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China avoids the Western ban on 5G chipsets with the new Huawei Mate 60 |  Huawei

China avoids the Western ban on 5G chipsets with the new Huawei Mate 60 | Huawei

China has produced a 5G smartphone using an advanced silicon chip on a miniature scale believed to be beyond its capabilities due to US-led export restrictions, analysts said.

Analyst firm TechInsights said Huawei’s Mate 60 Pro is powered by the new Kirin 9000s chip, which is manufactured in China by the partly state-owned Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

The research firm said its processor is the first to use SMIC’s more advanced 7nm technology, and indicates that the Chinese government is making some progress in its attempts to build a domestic chip ecosystem.

Since 2019, the United States has restricted Huawei’s access to basic chipmaking tools to produce its most advanced phone models. Despite being a 5G network equipment manufacturer, Huawei has previously only been able to launch limited batches of actual 5G phones using stock chips.

Huawei has been banned from providing 5G network equipment in several countries, including those affiliated with the Five Eyes security alliance, due to national security concerns raised by its ties to the Chinese government. Huawei has filed a lawsuit in a Lisbon court against operators there to prevent them from using its equipment in 5G mobile networks.

Dan Hutchison, an analyst at TechInsights, told Reuters that the latest development came as a “slap in the face” to the United States.

The most advanced chip SMIC was previously known to manufacture was of a larger 14nm range, because Washington in late 2020 blocked SMIC from obtaining the necessary machinery from Dutch company ASML.

But TechInsights said in 2022 that it believed SMIC was able to produce 7nm chips by modifying simpler machines that it could still buy freely from ASML. However, some research firms have predicted that only 50% or less of 7nm chips produced this way will be usable, versus the industry standard of 90% or more, and that will limit the resulting smartphone shipments.

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Outside China, the best 7nm chips are made using a process called extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography — a closely guarded technology that the United States is leading efforts to keep out of Beijing’s hands.

“the [US] Doug Fuller, a chip researcher at Copenhagen Business School, said the controls impose high costs for producing controlled technologies in China, adding that the Chinese government is likely to foot the bill.

China is set to launch a new state-backed investment fund aimed at raising about $40 billion for the chip sector, as the country steps up efforts to catch up with the United States and other rivals.

Huawei started selling its Mate 60 Pro phone last week. The specifications provided announced its ability to make satellite calls, but did not provide any information about the power of the internal chip.

Phone buyers in China have been posting detailed videos and sharing speed tests on social media that suggest the Mate 60 Pro is capable of download speeds beyond those found in flagship 5G phones.

The launch of the phone led to a state of frenzy among users of social media and government media in China, with some pointing out that it coincided with the visit of US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Some analysts said there was a possibility that Huawei had bought technology and equipment from SMIC to manufacture the chip instead of doing so in collaboration.

TechInsight’s findings were first reported by Bloomberg News.