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US government official says HUAWEI could be bluffing on Mate 60 Pro chip scale

Just because the HUAWEI Mate 60 Pro has a 5G chip that shouldn't exist doesn't mean the company can scale it.
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Published onSeptember 19, 2023

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TL;DR
  • The HUAWEI Mate 60 Pro has a 5G chipset inside. This shouldn’t be possible with the current sanctions on the company.
  • Now, a government official has said there’s no evidence HUAWEI can scale production of this chip.
  • Some Republicans in the US think the country should end all technology exports to HUAWEI.

A few weeks ago, HUAWEI took the world by surprise when it launched the new Mate 60 Pro (and, shortly after, the Mate 60 Pro Plus). While the launch of a new flagship Android phone wasn’t surprising, the chipset inside was. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), a China-based firm, built this Kirin chip. The chip has 5G support and a 7nm build.

By all accounts, HUAWEI should not have been able to do this. Thanks to the so-called HUAWEI ban, the company shouldn’t be able to access the technology needed to produce such a chip. That means the company has either had a significant breakthrough in chipset design or has violated international trade sanctions.

Today, via Reuters, we’ve learned that the US government thinks it’s possible HUAWEI is pumping itself up a bit. According to US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the US government doesn’t “have any evidence that [HUAWEI] can manufacture seven-nanometer at scale.”

In other words, if HUAWEI did achieve a technology breakthrough by figuring out a new and unique way to produce 5G-capable 7nm chips, the US doesn’t think the company is prepared to actually make those chips at a large enough scale for it to be significant.

Earlier this month, the Commerce Department said it was looking into this new chip. Additionally, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized that the country was investigating the matter.

HUAWEI Mate 60 Pro: Evidence more bans needed?

However, Republicans critical of the Biden administration’s handling of HUAWEI and China were quick to point out that Gina Raimondo was physically in China when the HUAWEI Mate 60 Pro launched. Republican Representative Darrell Issa said that Raimondo was “bushwhacked, to say the least” by the surprise launch of a phone that, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist.

There are many Republicans in Washington who think the US should end all technology exports to both HUAWEI and SMIC over this news.