In the latest event in the quickly moving saga that is Huawei’s technology export blacklisting by the United States Government, the BBC has published a report this morning claiming that IP vendor Arm has “suspend business” with Huawei and its subsidiaries. If this is correct, then it would represent a massive setback for Huawei’s hardware development efforts, as the company and its HiSilicon chip design subsidiary rely heavily on Arm’s IP for its products.

According to the BBC News report, Arm has almost entirely severed ties with Huawei, with the company instructing employees that they are not to “provide support, delivery technology (whether software, code, or other updates), engage in technical discussions, or otherwise discuss technical matters with Huawei, HiSilicon or any of the other named entities”.

Huawei, for its part, is one of Arm’s top customers and a close ecosystem partner, shipping countless numbers of chips and devices with Arm IP in it every year. The company is a leading-edge implementer of new Arm CPU and GPU IP, and in the last few years has been the first vendor to ship chips using Arm’s latest Cortex-A series CPUs. Furthermore, via HiSilicon, Huawei is also an ARMv8 CPU architectural licensee. As a result of their close workings with Arm, Huawei has built up a significant amount of their product portfolio around Arm technologies, including their Kirin consumer SoCs and Kunpeng server SoCs. So being cut off from Arm would touch virtually every aspect of Huawei’s hardware business, from smartphones to networking gear.

Meanwhile Arm, for its part, is headquartered in the UK and not the US. However as a multi-national company, Arm develops its technology around the world, including its major design centers in San Jose and Austin. As a result, according to the report, Arm has deemed that its designs contain “US origin technology”, and as a result make it subject to the US technology blacklist.

What’s less clear, however, is just how much Huawei will be impacted by Arm’s suspension and how soon. The BBC’s report indicates that Arm’s suspension only involves further technology transfers and development, and that the company can continue to manufacture chips based on technology they already have – including chips that have finished development and are coming on the market later this year. In which case Huawei wouldn’t immediately feel the impact of the suspension, as the long lead time on chip design means it would be a bit until that development pipeline runs dry. However it’s not as clear what this means for HiSilicon’s Arm architecture license as a whole, and if and how that could be rescinded.

For now, the full ramifications for Huawei are going to depend heavily on whether they remain on the US technology blacklist, or if at some point they are removed or otherwise granted a waiver. If Huawei is reinstated, then the company can continue development of their current product pipeline – though the company would want to take a hard look at moving away from US-sourced IP anyhow to prevent a repeat of this event. Otherwise if they remain cut-off from Arm, then Huawei is without a doubt going to be left in a tough spot and will be forced to go it alone. This is where the nuances of their Arm architecture license come into play – if the company can legally develop their own hardware using the Arm ISA – but either way Huawei would need to increasingly develop its own IP and license other parts from non-US sources.

Ultimately it’s been clear from the start that the US technology blacklisting would have severe repercussions for Huawei. However of all of Huawei’s US-bound technology partners, there is arguably none more important than Arm. So losing access to Arm’s IP could very well cripple the company.

In the meantime, we’ve reached out to Huawei and Arm for further comment.

Source: BBC News

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  • s.yu - Friday, May 24, 2019 - link

    I agree that they'd have to lay off many people, but I don't see them losing more than 1/3 of the smartphone market, their market position in China will be strengthened by nationalism and they won't lose the whole international market either.
    "The brand itself is a valuable property, and it has been tarnished internationally already." The brand is certainly valuable property, it's probably the most "valuable" brand in China, but I don't know about tarnished, I see even many western media defending Huawei out of obvious or not-so-obvious political reasons or a superficial understanding, and the Trump administration antagonized many before dealing with Huawei inadvertently casting a halo on Huawei.
    Reply
  • Yojimbo - Saturday, May 25, 2019 - link

    Huawei will definitely received a benefit from nationalism, but I am not sure if it will go so far that the young people will buy phones that they can't be satisfied with. If without Google and ARM Huawei loses functionality and user friendliness from their phones they may suffer even in China. A company can ask all employees to use Huawei, but how many of the employees actually will depends on the energy put into the campaign by all the low level managers and the general peer pressure. And then a university, I think, is not going to be able to seriously pressure all its students to use Huawei, and would it really go so far that the teachers would start shaming the students to follow through on it, anyway? Public announcements and social media trumpeting aren't real sacrifices. By themselves, they don't signify the reality of the situation. What I am trying to say is that yes, if Huawei manages to make competitive products then nationalism will probably carry them to strong market share in China, but if the technology restrictions make their products uncompetitive would an overwhelming majority of consumers who are used to a certain experience really be willing to give that up for the sake of Huawei?

    Regardless, Huawei losing their foreign sales still cuts their revenues in half, I think. In terms of the brand being tarnished, it doesn't have to be a moral judgment. Smartphone consumers are hardly going to be interested in rallying around a smartphone company. Their perception of the brand is not going to be based on what media sources say, but rather on the practical value of the phones. And if their phones lose functionality they lose appeal and that negative change will probably have a negative effect on the perception of the brand. Just a few years of less visibility can kill the momentum of the brand. Right now it's Huawei wow-way and in a few years if they claw their way back, whether through new hardware and software or through the end of the restrictions, it could very well be Huawei, oh yeah, I remember them.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Friday, May 24, 2019 - link

    Look at this for example, a major motorcycle manufacturer in China asking that all employees use Huawei: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Apr9zBuBUufHgaVFRHtVu8qS5O9rDA
    This isn't a rare occurrence.
    Reply
  • Xex360 - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    It's getting ridiculous, this fool in the white House is going to ruin the US and take with it other countries. The EU, China, and India and other countries should work together against this madness. Reply
  • Yojimbo - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    You think the EU and India want to get robbed by China? No, they are hoping the US gets China to change their ways. Of course they want it to be over sooner rather than later. Your fool in the White House is doing what should have been done 10 years ago, but greed and arrogance took precedence over the good of the American people. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    Magical world you live in, where helpless nations look to the US for leadership and Trump acts in the interests of "the good of the American people". Reply
  • Yojimbo - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    Firstly, nations do look to the US for leadership, whether you like it or not. But the EU isn't so much lookingfor
    leadership here, rather they are looking to freeload. They don't want to be the one to charge up the hill but you can bet they'll plant a flag up there when they think it is safe.

    Yes, Trump is acting for the good of the American people, as is his job, but that doesn't mean that things he does can't simultaneously be good for people elsewhere, whether by design or by happenstance. In this case it is a happenstance, and pretty obviously true, btw, that the policies of China that negatively affect the USA also negatively affect the EU and other countries.
    Reply
  • t.s - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    @Yojimbo
    No. Not all nations. At least not Southeast Asian nations. Who want US leadership when all this country do is wage a trade wars that harm other countries.
    Reply
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    Interesting that you speak for "Southeast Asian" nations. Is there a new dashed line we don't know about? Reply
  • Yojimbo - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    It's odd that you think it's somehow a fantasy workd for a President to be actibg for the good of the country that elected him. Even the CCP is acting for the good of China, as they see it. It doesn't take altruism to do one's job. A personal care - a sense of patriotism,for example- helps, but even that is not necessary. Just a personal resolve to do a good job, a desire to be well-remembered, a drive to prove people wrong... these things can lead people to do their jobs well. Reply

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