Did Huawei already develop its own 5G chip to get around US sanctions?

Huawei released the Mate 60 Pro on Wednesday with little fanfare and some missing details — namely, the kind of chip it uses. Any mention of a chip is notably absent from the $960 phone’s product pages despite mentioning “better communication experience” and a “more stable network connection.”

That information has only surfaced in unboxing videos and reviews posted online, including this one from the tech outlet Gizmochina, which says that the device comes with the Kirin 9000s to support 5G and satellite calls. This seems to be the latest version of the Kirin chipset that we last saw with the Mate 40 series devices in 2020. However, Gizmochina notes that “there is very little information that can be confirmed” about whether the company has become self-sufficient with the Kirin 9000s. Huawei declined to comment.

If the Huawei Mate 60 Pro comes with its own 5G chip, that would mark a huge milestone for the Chinese smartphone giant. In 2019, the US government banned American companies from selling software and equipment to Huawei over national security concerns. Things got even worse for Huawei when the US began making it more difficult for foreign chipmakers in possession of US-made technology to do business with the company.

After Huawei began running out of its stockpile of existing chipsets, rumors emerged that the company had been working on a 5G chip using technology sourced from China. Nikkei Asia reported in July that Huawei wanted to restart production on 5G chips “as early as this year,” with China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) set to start producing the company’s in-house 5G chip.

SMIC would reportedly use 7nm technology to produce the chip. That still isn’t as efficient as the 4nm and 3nm processes used by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which makes chips for big-name clients like Apple, Nvidia, and Google. Still, some speculate that leaving Chinese technology companies to their own devices (literally) could threaten the chipmaking business that the Biden administration is trying to build up in the US.

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