ARM cuts ties with Huawei, threatening future chip designs

Chip designer ARM ceases trading with Huawei, threatening the ability of Chinese companies to make their own chips. BBC News reports that ARM employees have been instructed by Huawei to discontinue "all active contracts, support rights and pending agreements" with US trade restrictions. The US government banned American companies from trading with China Telecom giants without permission from the US government, but ARM is based in the UK and owned by SoftBank Group Japan.

ARM prohibits US Huawei relies on ARM to design chip architecture for its Kirin processor, and is licensing them. Without a license, Huawei can not continue to manufacture its own processors using ARM designs and HiSilicon fabless semiconductor companies.

It is not clear whether ARM has responded carefully to US Department of Commerce orders, or has been advised to stop direct deals with Huawei. In the latter case, ARM's decision can be reflected by other semiconductor companies supplying Huawei.

Huawei estimates that US components have been stockpiled for the past three months to a year. The stockpile will be depleted at some point in the future, especially in areas that are severely constrained by supply lines. Huawei relies on US-based manufacturers such as Micron, Skyworks and Qorvo, which currently provide storage and networking components for some mobile phones in Huawei.

Huawei faces difficulties without access to these key components, but there is no ARM architectural design or instruction set. It faces a nearly impossible task of manufacturing smartphones without US technology. We contacted ARM and Huawei to get feedback on the situation.

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