SK hynix’s reminiscence chips subsequent in Huawei’s 5G cellphone saga


Final week’s comparatively low-key launch of Huawei’ Mate 60 Professional 5G cellphone remains to be making waves for China’s breakthrough in cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing know-how with a 5G system-on-chip (SoC) produced on SMIC’s 7-nm course of node. Particularly, when SMIC doesn’t have entry to excessive ultraviolet (EUV) lithography gear.

Determine 1 Huawei’s Mate 60 Professional 5G cellphone is powered by the Kirin 9000s chip fabricated on SMIC’s 7-nm course of node. Supply: Bloomberg

Whereas commerce media has continually been digging in for extra particulars, social media in China is celebrating this breakthrough in semiconductor know-how. In response to Dan Hutcheson, vice-chair of TechInsights, almost two-thirds of silicon in Huawei’s 5G cellphone is homegrown, and it’s a serious advance.

The Ottawa, Canada-based TechInsights has been analyzing elements of Huawei’s Mate 60 Professional 5G cellphone since its launch within the first week of September. Nonetheless, whereas the discovery of Huawei’s Kirin 9000s 5G chip manufactured at SMIC’s 7-nm course of node was initially making rounds in commerce media, there was one other shock in retailer.

The following saga

Quickly after uncovering the SMIC-made 7-nm SoC in Huawei’s Mate 60 Professional 5G cellphone, TechInsights found the presence of SK hynix’s 12 GB LPDDR5 chip and 512 GB NAND flash chip contained in the handset. The truth is, some early customers of the 5G cellphone additionally posted movies of the cellphone containing NAND flash reminiscence chips manufactured by the Icheon, South Korea-based SK hynix.

SK hynix instantly responded that the corporate abides by the U.S. authorities’s export restrictions and not does enterprise with Huawei. It additionally introduced that it’s beginning an investigation to search out extra particulars.

Determine 2 TechInsights’ teardown exhibits that Huawei’s Mate 60 Professional cellphone has used SK hynix’s LPDDR5 and NAND flash reminiscence chips. Supply: Bloomberg

It’s believable that Huawei bought the reminiscence chips from the secondary markets. Business insiders even don’t rule out the likelihood that Huawei might need stockpiled reminiscence chips simply earlier than the U.S. export curbs kicked in.

Huawei’s smartphone enterprise was disrupted again in 2019 when america started restrictions on know-how exports to the Shenzhen, China-based tech large for the danger of chip know-how being diverted for army end-use. Now, when the world is questioning the place these reminiscence chips got here from, there are additionally jitters about Huawei’s skill to supply a 5G cellphone with largely China-made parts.

Double-edge sword

Huawei’s 5G smartphone saga cuts each methods. On one hand, Huawei’s skill to supply a 7-nm SoC in collaboration with SMIC has demonstrated sound technical progress with out SMIC gaining access to EUV lithography instruments. The truth is, there’s discuss SMIC having violated the U.S. sanctions by supplying the 7-nm manufacturing know-how to Huawei.

Then again, there’s a reckoning about China’s tech self-sufficiency, which may probably affect the industrial pursuits of the U.S. firms. Particularly when U.S. semiconductor homes like Qualcomm and Nvidia have been arguing for fewer sanctions to tame China’s motivation for semiconductor know-how breakthroughs.

TechInsights’ Hutcheson notes that China has been in a position to keep 2-2.5 nodes behind the main fabs like TSMC and Samsung. However he additionally reminded that individuals thought China can be stopped on the 14 nm course of node.

In a Reuters story, Hutcheson additionally talked about SMIC’s 7-nm course of yield, which is taken into account beneath 50% by some analysis companies in comparison with the business norm of 90% or extra. In his view, “above 50%” is affordable as a result of Huawei’s 5G chip has been manufactured in a cleaner vogue. He thinks it’s much more competent than the 7-nm chip SMIC produced for a Bitcoin miner final 12 months.

For now, it’s benefitting Huawei as its new 5G telephones are having fun with a brisk sale in China, and it’s successful accolades on Chinese language social media. However will it have the ability to compete with 5G telephones constructed across the 3-nm SoCs manufactured in TSMC and Samsung fabs? Time will inform.

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