Chip designer Arm says Huawei ties unaffected by US trade restrictions

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Huawei’s Ascend 910 processor. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

UK chip designer Arm confirmed on Wednesday that it will continue to supply Huawei and its semiconductor subsidiary HiSilicon. US trade restrictions had called the pair’s ties into question after Arm previously told staff to stop working with Huawei, the BBC reported citing internal documents.

Why it matters: Arm’s chip-designing architecture are used in HiSilicon’s chipsets found in many of Huawei’s smartphones and mobile devices, and the severed business ties had forced Hisilicon to find alternatives.

  • The UK-based company, which is owned by Japanese telecom giant Softbank, licenses its semiconductor technologies such as the Arm architecture to chip makers.
  • Most in-house chips developed by Huawei’s HiSilicon, including its Kirin chip, as well as those used in servers, cameras, and routers, are based on the Arm architecture.
  • The company reportedly suspended business with Huawei in May after the US put Huawei on an “entity list” barring it from buying American technology.
  • The company previously said in an internal memo that its designs contained “US origin technology.”

Details: Arm China, a joint venture set up by Arm and a Chinese investment consortium last year, said in a news conference in Shenzhen on Wednesday that the company, along with its UK parent, never suspended supplies to Huawei after the US trade ban took effect, Chinese media outlet Semiconductor Industry Observation reported on Wednesday.

  • “The technologies provided by Arm come from the UK, and they are not affected [by the US trade restrictions],” Diao Yanqiu, chief information officer at HiSilicon, said at the conference.
  • Huawei will have access to the company’s latest Armv9 architecture that may come out in the next few years, and its usage of the current Armv8 architecture is also not affected, said Liang Quan, marketing director at Arm China.
  • Speakers at the conference also included Rene Haas, the president of Arm’s IP products group and Wu Angxiong, CEO of Arm China.

“After the [the US trade ban on Huawei], Arm and Arm China started communication with Huawei and HiSilicon, actively looking for solutions…We can definitely say that we have never suspended supplies to Huawei.”

—Liang Quan, marketing director Arm China, told reporters on Wednesday

Context: Many Huawei’s suppliers, including Intel and Google, have cut ties with the company as a result of the US trade restrictions, which has already brought huge damage to Huawei’s global supply chain.

  • The US government extended a reprieve that permits Huawei to buy components from existing US suppliers last month.

This story has been updated to correctly attribute the direct quote in the Details section to Diao Yanqiu, not Liang Quan as was originally written.