Huawei plans to use SMIC’s ‘nearly-7nm’ process

Huawei plans to use SMIC’s ‘nearly-7nm’ process

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

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China’s telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies is planning to restart designing mobile phone chips, circumventing export controls, according to Nikkei.

Huawei was a leading smartphone vendor – rivalling Apple and Samsung – as well the market leader in 5G communications equipment. However, export controls imposed by the US, restricted Huawei’s access to leading-edge chips and China’s access to chipmaking equipment.

Huawei’s lack of access to foundry TSMC forced the company to cease producing its own chips and phones in 2020. But now the company is working with leading Chinese foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC) to put a 5G mobile chipset into mass production in the coming months, Nikkei said.

SMIC has been manufacturing FinFETs at 14nm but this is not sufficiently small to produce leading-edge mobile phone chips. The foundry has been denied access to extreme ultraviolet lithography equipment but has managed to produce its so-called ‘N+1’ process which is reported to be close to an equivalent to TSMC’s 7nm (see SMIC process is 7nm, says Tech Insights).

While it may be possible for Huawei to design to the SMIC process what remains unclear is whether the manufacturing yield can be brought up to economic levels.

At the same time the Chinese government is pursuing a policy of self-sufficiency and therefore is important for SMIC’s process development to have commercial products to fill the wafer fab.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

SMIC process is 7nm, says Tech Insights

Opinion: Misplaced outrage over near-7nm SMIC chip

China’s Innosilicon tapes out on SMIC’s ‘nearly-7nm’ process

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