Research firms claim that China’s Huawei is prepared to overturn the US ban with the reintroduction of 5G phones..

According to research firms, China’s Huawei Technologies is planning to enter the 5G smartphone market by the end of this year, marking a comeback after a U.S. ban on equipment sales destroyed its consumer electronics sector.

According to three independent technological research organizations covering China’s smartphone market, Huawei should be able to obtain 5G chips domestically utilizing its own advancements in semiconductor design tools and chip production from Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co (SMIC).
Due to confidentiality agreements with clients, the firms spoke on the condition of anonymity and cited sources in the sector, including Huawei suppliers.

Advertisements

Huawei opted not to respond. Requests for comment from SMIC were not answered.

An entry back into the 5G phone market would be a triumph for the business, which for almost three years said it was only operating in “survival” mode. Revenue from Huawei’s consumer division reached a peak of 483 billion yuan ($67 billion) in 2020 before falling by over 50% the following year.

Prior to rounds of U.S. limitations starting in 2019, the Shenzhen-based tech giant competed with Apple (AAPL.O) and Samsung (005930.KS) to be the largest handset manufacturer in the world. These limits restricted its access to chipmaking tools necessary for developing its most cutting-edge models.

Governments in the U.S. and Europe have accused Huawei of posing a security concern; Huawei disputes this. Since then, Huawei has only sold a small number of 5G devices utilizing processors that were already on hand.

When sales hit a low point last year, Huawei dropped from most global rankings since it was stuck selling outdated 4G smartphones. However, the company rose to a 10% market share in China in the first quarter, according to consultancy Canalys.

5G PROJECTIONS

One of the research companies predicted that Huawei would adopt SMIC’s N+1 manufacturing method, but that 5G shipments would be restricted to between 2 million and 4 million units due to a predicted yield rate of usable chips below 50%. Without offering any additional information, a second company predicted that shipments may total 10 million units.

According to Canalys, Huawei shipped 240.6 million smartphones in 2019, its highest year, before selling its Honor division, which was responsible for nearly a fifth of those shipments.

This month, the government-sponsored China Securities Journal claimed that Huawei has increased its 2023 mobile shipment target to 40 million units from 30 million at the beginning of the year, without making any mention of a comeback for 5G phones.

According to the three research firms, Huawei could launch new models in early 2024 and produce 5G versions of flagship models like the P60, which competes with the iPhone, this year. They added that their predictions were based on information they had obtained through checks with contacts in Huawei’s supply chain and recent company announcements.

However, U.S. regulations prevent Huawei from accessing Google’s Android operating system and the suite of developer services, which serve as the foundation for the majority of Android apps, which reduces the appeal of Huawei handsets outside of China.

TOOLS FOR CHIP DESIGN

Research companies recognized In March, Huawei said that its electronic design automation (EDA) tools for chips manufactured at and beyond 14 nanometre (nm) technology had advanced.

Before semiconductors are mass produced in fabs, chip design companies utilize EDA software to create the blueprints for the chips.

According to the research firms, which are quoting their own industry sources, SMIC’s N+1 manufacturing method and Huawei’s EDA software might be combined to produce chips with a size similar to 7 nm, the potent semiconductors that are commonly seen in 5G phones.

Washington prohibited SMIC from purchasing an EUV machine, a cutting-edge chip manufacturing tool from the Dutch company ASML (ASML.AS), which is essential in the production of 7 nm chips.

However, some experts have discovered evidence that SMIC has still been able to make 7 nm devices by modifying smaller DUV machines it could still readily purchase from ASML.

The second research company reported that it has seen Huawei ask SMIC to make chip components for 5G products below 14 nm this year.

According to Doug Fuller, a researcher on chips at the Copenhagen Business School, the anticipated yield rate of less than 50% suggests that 5G chips “are going to be expensive.”

I suppose Huawei can absorb the costs if they so choose, but Fuller doesn’t consider such processors to be competitively priced.

(1 USD = 7.2023 CNY renminbi)