A tech news influencer broke the news on Dec. 30 that preparations for the first mass production of 12nm and 14nm chipsets are underway in China.
The influencer, named 厂长是关同学, hinted on Weibo that Huawei will be able to start mass production of 12nm and 14nm chipsets soon, saying that some of the brand's wearable devices are already using them. With more than 192,600 followers on Weibo, the influencer is known for consistently providing on-point information about Huawei.
Over the past year, the Chinese telecom equipment giant has been working with domestic semiconductor companies to build "US-free" production lines as it seeks to become self-reliant in the field.
After Washington further tightened export controls on Huawei in 2019, Huawei lost access to key US technology and global chip manufacturing partners. The White House's ban on global chipmakers using US technology from working with Huawei has brought a huge impact on the company's smartphone business.
Due to its lack of access to cutting-edge mobile processors and 5G connectivity, its smartphone business plunged to 10th in the world by shipments in 2021, according to IDC. The Chinese smartphone brand briefly held the top spot in 2020.
Huawei owns fabless semiconductor company HiSilicon Technologies, which designs some of the world's most advanced processor chips for smartphones, base stations, and smart TVs. Prior to the US embargo, contract chipmakers, including TSMC, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and SMIC, put HiSilicon's chip designs into production.
Since then, it has relied on off-the-shelf chips and inventory to keep its flagship telecom equipment business afloat.
In Dec., it was reported that Huawei had exhausted the inventory of HiSilicon chipset. "Due to the US ban, it is no longer possible for the company to get new chipsets from foundries like TSMC, Samsung, etc,” Counterpoint Research said.
Getting closer to mass production of 12nm and 14nm chipsets suggests that Huawei's efforts to create a US-free production line are paying off. While the process is less-advanced compared to TSMC's 3nm process, which recently began mass production, it is sufficient to support its smart wearable devices.
Last week, the company said it was out of "crisis mode" as the impact of US sanctions on its smartphone business waned. In a New Year's message to employees, Huawei Chairman Eric Xu said the decline in the company's once-dominant consumer equipment business had stabilized, while telecom infrastructure business saw growth in 2022.
"US restrictions are now our new normal, and we’re back to business as usual,” said Xu. Huawei expects to end the year with annual revenue of 636.9 billion yuan ($92.10 billion), roughly flat from a year earlier.