The Trump administration today blocked shipments of chips to Huawei by any foundry using American technology, which in practice means all of the companies that make high-end chips.
Most tech companies like Apple, Qualcomm, and MediaTek design their own chips but don’t have the facilities to produce them. That’s where foundry companies like TSMC come in, which make chips like the A13 Bionic for Apple, the Kirin 990 for Huawei, and the Snapdragon 865 for Qualcomm.
The US Department of Commerce today announced a change in an export law to ” go against Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain US software and technology.”
The Department adds that “today’s announcement disrupts Huawei’s efforts to undermine US export controls.” .
Huawei has been moving production of some chips to SMIC, China’s largest foundry. However, the SMIC 14nm process is several steps behind TSMC’s 5nm process node.
The difference between using a 14nm and a 5nm process involves integrating 44 million transistors per square mm compared to 171.3 transistors per square mm. Huawei is using SMIC’s production capabilities to manufacture the Kirin 710A chipset for mid-range phones.
TSMC will not be able to ship chips to Huawei without a special US license.
As we had heard, TSMC planned to ship the first 5nm Kirin 1020 chip to Huawei later this year, which would likely be the brain of the next Mate 40 series.
Following the rule change, foundry companies using chip manufacturing equipment from the US will be forced to obtain a US license. before you can ship the chips to Huawei or its subsidiary HiSilicon.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the rule change “will prevent US technologies. allow malicious activities contrary to US national security and to the interests of foreign policy ».
The United States will allow wafers already in production to be delivered to Huawei as long as shipments are made no later than 120 days from today.
On the other hand, earlier this week President Trump extended for one year the prohibition on the use of network equipment made by companies considered a threat to national security in the United States. In addition to Huawei, that directive is also directed at another Chinese manufacturer, ZTE.