Huawei expects to begin mass production later this year of its first proprietary 5G mobile chip since US sanctions prevented it from accessing 5G semiconductor components. Nikkei Asia reports Huawei sought out Chinese chip foundry SMIC and expects the alliance to bear fruit in the coming months with the return of 5G Huawei handsets to the production line.

Reuters reported earlier in July that Huawei is planning to procure SMIC’s 5G chips to equip 5G-enabled versions of its flagship Huawei P60 Pro smartphone. The phone launched this spring in China and Europe, but without 5G due to the US sanctions.

One research resource suggested Huawei had contracted SMIC’s N+1 manufacturing process, which could yield 2-4 million 5G shipments. Another source told Reuters the figure was closer to 10 million smartphone units. A caveat is the standard of Huawei and SMIC’s new foundry process, which reportedly has a forecast yield rate of less than 50 percent.

Sanctions barring Huawei’s access to US tech and suppliers were introduced due to concerns in Washington that the Chinese government could require ‘backdoors’ in Huawei products for state surveillance. Since sanctions, Huawei’s 5G smartphone sales have been reduced to limited batches using stockpiled chips, according to Reuters. 

Chinese media has reported Huawei raised its 2023 mobile shipment target to 40 million units, from 30 million units at the start of this year, though it remains a far cry from the 240.6 million it shipped four years ago, according to Reuters’ cited data.

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