The US export restrictions, which the country’s authorities began to issue under President Trump, were aimed at pushing the Chinese company Huawei Technologies out of the market for equipment for 5G communication networks. The brand’s smartphone business also suffered – in fact, Huawei was forced to only produce devices for 4G networks. That could change with Huawei’s own 5G-enabled smartphone processors, which SMIC will launch by the end of this year.
Originally, Huawei also developed its processors for 5G-enabled devices, but these were approved by Taiwan’s TSMC, to whose pipeline the Chinese giant lost access in 2019 due to US sanctions. At that time, the Chinese SMIC could not offer its customers sufficiently advanced lithography technologies to produce processors for 5G networks with the required characteristics.
As explained, the situation could change by the end of this year Reuters interviewed industry analysts tracking Huawei Technologies. The latter managed to master the software design tools needed to bring 5G-enabled devices back to the market, and the Chinese company SMIC mastered the technical process contained in its parameters of the 7nm technology of the same TSMC comes close.
Some sources estimate that SMIC Huawei can supply about two to four million of the corresponding processors, however, the yield of products using this process will not exceed 50%, making production quite expensive. Other sources suggest that the production of these processors could reach 10 million units this year. Chinese media reported this month that Huawei has raised its smartphone production target to 40 million this year from 30 million. As early as this year, the company could re-launch its flagship 5G devices.
In March it was announced that Huawei was able to gain access to software enabling the development of components manufactured in the 14nm and coarser lithography standard. Analysts suspect that despite the sanctions, SMIC was able to modify the DUV lithography equipment at its disposal to produce chips that are comparable in parameters to 7nm products from foreign competitors. Such orders will be quite expensive for Huawei, but the company can take such a risk to maintain its market position.