United States export ban may force Huawei and Honor to ditch their own Kirin SoC and use MediaTek chips instead
That Huawei is in a soup is no exaggeration! Earlier we had reported how Huawei was forced to relaunch its old Android smartphones as a new edition because of the United States barring Google from allowing its Apps like Google Play Store, YouTube, etc from featuring on new Huawei smartphones. It has already launched two new edition smartphones, Huawei P30 Pro New Edition and P30 Lite New Edition.
Huawei’s woes continue with the United Kingdom, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson looking to remove Huawei completely from UK’s 5G networking grid in 3 years. It does not help that Huawei has indulged in some shady practices in the past few weeks. It sent a mashed up and buggy HKSP patch to Linux foundation for incorporation in the Linux Kernel and later retracted saying it was done by its employee without Huawei’s permission or knowledge.
Now the sinkhole that Huawei finds itself in is getting only deeper. Reports indicate that Huawei and Honor, a sister Huawei company, may have to stop using Kirin SoC processors in their smartphones.
Why will Huawei have to ditch Kirin SoC?
Kirin chips are manufactured by a company called HiSilicon based in Shenzhen and Guangdong in China. HiSilicon is fully owned by Huawei and has licensing agreements with different Chip manufacturers based in the United States. With the U.S. ban on the export of technology to Huawei, it is now left high and dry without the cooperation from Qualcomm and its Snapdragon processors. President Trump has been pressurizing domestic chip manufacturers to shift their manufacturing back to the U.S. This was recently included in the US Department of Commerce’s new licensing restrictions which needs the U.S. based chip manufacturers to obtain a license if they trade Huawei-designed chipsets as well as those designs with the company.
This has stopped the TSMC from assembling Kirin chips for HiSilicon and in effect for Huawei and Honor. This has forced both the firms to look beyond their own Kirin chips to power their Android smartphones. They are reportedly in talks with MediaTek and UNISOC to use their chips to power future Huawei and Honor Android smartphones. Zhao Ming from Honor has voiced concerns about the U.S. ban at the launch of the Honor X10, which is powered with a Kirin 820 chip.
The U.S. is going hammer and tongs after Huawei and its associated companies. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has noted that even with an effective export ban in place, Huawei is still able to use U.S. technology in its HiSilicon chipsets. These chips were assembled by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) which violated the U.S. ban.
Huawei hopes MediaTek can power future Huawei and Honor Android smartphones because it is already powering some of its low budget smartphones. MediaTek is based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and doesn’t have any links with any U.S. manufacturer thus keeping it out of the purview of the U.S. ban. It remains to be seen whether MediaTek will cooperate with Huawei in direct difference to the Taiwan state policy and risk the U.S. ban.