U.S. pulls licenses from Qualcomm, Intel to prevent chip shipments to Huawei

Before Huawei was able to obtain the 7nm Kirin 9000s 5G chipsets from SMIC for last year’s Mate 60 line, the last 5G chips it equipped on a flagship phone were the Kirin 9000 SoCs that powered 2020’s Mate 40 series. That year the U.S. changed its export rules so that foundries using American technology to manufacture chips were banned from shipping cutting-edge chips to Huawei.

When Huawei ran out of inventory of its Kirin 9000 chips, Qualcomm was able to obtain a license to ship versions of its Snapdragon application processors to Huawei that were tweaked not to work with 5G networks. These chips were used to power 2022’s P50 and Mate 50 phones, and last year’s P60. But when Huawei was able to obtain 5G chips from China’s largest foundry, SMIC, U.S. lawmakers were extremely upset even if the chips were produced using a process node (7nm) two generations behind TSMC, and Samsung Foundry. And the lawmakers are getting even.

Sources have informed Bloomberg that the U.S. has revoked licenses given to Qualcomm and Intel that allow them to sell chips to Huawei. Those who spoke to Bloomberg on condition of anonymity said that the move will affect U.S. chip sales to Huawei for its phones and laptops. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) confirmed the administration’s actions saying that the idea is to prevent China from developing advanced AI.

McCaul said, “It’s blocking any chips sold to Huawei.” Talking about Qualcomm and Intel, McCaul added, “Those are two companies we’ve always worried about being a little too close to China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman was briefed about the decision to pull the licenses from Qualcomm and Intel. The U.S. is considering adding sanctions to six Chinese firms that American officials fear could supply Huawei with chips.

In a statement made Tuesday, the U.S. Commerce Department said, “We continuously assess how our controls can best protect our national security and foreign policy interests.” Meanwhile, Qualcomm says that its business with Huawei has been dropping, is extremely limited, and it will soon be selling absolutely no chips to the Chinese firm.

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