According to sources familiar with the matter, Huawei Technologies’ unit is shipping new Chinese-made chips for surveillance cameras. This development suggests that the Chinese tech giant is finding ways to overcome four years of U.S. export controls. Shipments from Huawei’s HiSilicon chip design unit began this year, with at least some of the customers being Chinese surveillance camera makers.
Huawei has also recently introduced new smartphones that use advanced domestically manufactured chips. This indicates that the company is overcoming Washington’s export controls, which have restricted its access to components and technology from American companies without approval since 2019.
The introduction of surveillance chips by Huawei’s HiSilicon unit is seen as a significant move in the market. These chips are relatively easier to manufacture compared to smartphone processors, according to industry insiders. The return of HiSilicon will likely shake up the surveillance camera sector.
One key factor in Huawei’s ability to continue chip production is its apparent avoidance of US restrictions on chip design software. In March, Huawei announced progress in designing tools for chips produced from 14 nanometers, which is two or three generations behind cutting-edge technology but still a breakthrough for the company.
HiSilicon has been a major supplier of chips for Huawei equipment and has had external clients such as Dahua Technology and Hikvision. However, due to US export controls, its global market share dropped drastically from an estimated 60% in 2018 to just 3.9% in 2021, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
While HiSilicon had shipped some low-end surveillance chips since 2019, its focus was on regaining market share in the high-end space. It aims to compete with companies like Novatek Microelectronics Corp. from Taiwan.
Huawei declined to comment on these developments.
In late August, Huawei launched the Mate 60 Pro smartphone powered by an advanced chip capable of reaching 5G speeds. Research firm TechInsights examined the device and found that it was likely powered by a new Kirin 9000S chip manufactured in China by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC).
The launch of the Mate 60 Pro prompted calls from US lawmakers for additional pressure and “more effective export controls” on Huawei and SMIC. However, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stated that the United States has no evidence that Huawei can produce smartphones with advanced chips in large volumes.
US sanctions have restricted HiSilicon’s access to electronic design automation (EDA) software from companies like Cadence Design Systems Inc, Synopsys Inc, and Siemens AG’s Mentor Graphics. These three companies dominate the chip design sector, which produces chip blueprints before mass manufacturing.
Analysts believe that Huawei may have gained access to sophisticated EDA tools despite the restrictions. This raises questions about how they obtained them, whether illicitly or through developing their own tools.
The essence of the matter, Huawei’s unit shipping Chinese-made surveillance chips indicates its ability to overcome US export controls. The company’s introduction of advanced domestically manufactured chips in its smartphones further demonstrates its resilience. However, concerns remain regarding the source of these advanced chips and the tools used for their production.
According to The Hindu article, which can be accessed (here)( these developments mark a significant comeback for Huawei and highlight its determination to regain market share in various sectors.