Huawei Hides Displayed Chips to Protect Suppliers at MWC

For Huawei, it is close to impossible to procure chips for its server and communications products that are widely used in China and other countries. But that doesn’t mean that the company cannot get chips at all; it just does not want anyone to know who sells them. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company demonstrated its new server motherboards with all chips covered with disguising tape and coolers to hide the names of its suppliers. 

Huawei still sells boatloads of servers and communication equipment in China and a number of other countries, but to build those devices, it needs chips. Virtually all chips today — whether they are logic or memory ICs — are designed using electronic design automation (EDA) tools developed in the U.S. and produced on equipment containing technologies created in America, so their suppliers need to get appropriate licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce to sell them to Huawei or its subsidiaries.  

But getting those licenses is tricky, which is why Huawei likely has to buy chips on the gray market or use complicated means to get hardware from its developers. In both cases, the company prefers not to demonstrate what it uses openly and hides its suppliers, as we can see from images published on Twitter by Jay Goldberg, a 5G, IoT, and networking analyst focused on China. Of course, another reason to hide chips that it uses from prying is could be a way to conceal trade secrets from competitors (and we know that there are Chinese companies copying Huawei’s products).

You need to expand the above tweet to see the images. One of the boards (marked at GFMPUB Ver. A) not only conceals logic chips using a radiator or tape, but even hides the supplier of the memory ICs. Another board, which looks like a prototype (or even a mockup) of a 4-way server motherboard, not only conceals the markings on some of the chips, but even does not carry processors, perhaps to guarantee that no one could guess their producer even if the board gets stolen.  

After Huawei became a victim of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China on the grounds that it has ties with the People’s Republic army, the company can no longer procure hardware and software from U.S.-based companies or containing technologies developed in America without getting an appropriate license from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Huawei’s HiSilicon subsidiary lost access to advanced semiconductor production outside of China, which to a large degree blocked its advanced chip development. 

As it turns out, there are still ways for Huawei to obtain the chips it needs. Furthermore, the company is reportedly working with China-based SMIC — another company that lost its ability to develop at a rapid pace because of the U.S.-imposed sanctions — to build a fab capable of producing chips and system-in-packages it needs to build its products.


****THis article is reproduced in Tom s Hardware by Anton Shilov .:

Post time: Mar-14-2023