The US government’s sanctions have had a negative impact on Huawei’s business, preventing firms that rely on US technologies from providing Huawei with its products. These decisions have even affected Huawei’s selection of chips for smartphones. However, according to a report, Huawei has made progress in its plans to manufacture its own chips, although these chips will be based on the older 14nm process node.
According to an anonymous post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, Huawei is collaborating with Chinese foundry SMIC to create 14nm chips. This is a significant shift from Huawei’s previous 5nm Kirin chips. The Weibo leak claims that Huawei is already using the new chip internally for an unnamed platform, and speculates that it may also be used in a wearable device in the future. However, 14nm technology is considered quite outdated, and it is unclear why Huawei would invest in it.
Currently, Huawei is unable to use TSMC and Samsung’s foundries, which utilize advanced 3nm and 4nm fabrication nodes and produce more powerful and energy-efficient chips. Huawei can use Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets, but these do not offer 5G connectivity due to the aforementioned sanctions. As a result, Huawei is forced to use its in-house HiSilicon designs, which are manufactured by local partners that are not subject to sanctions. This seems to be what is happening in the current situation.
Huawei has recently filed patents for different variations of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography techniques, which are used to create finer circuitry on silicon wafers. These efforts could bring Huawei closer to producing 3nm and 4nm chips with local partners like SMIC. However, it may take years to develop a functional and scalable EUV solution.
Therefore, it is unlikely that we will see a Huawei 5G smartphone or wearable using a high-end 14nm HiSilicon-designed chip in the near future. The leak indicates that it will take time for Huawei to produce these chips, which is not unexpected.