Technology May 08

Huawei chip unit breaks into world top 10

HiSilicon nudges Comcast from upper echelons of semiconductor sector, giving parent a leg up as it seeks to prosper without US engagement

by Nadeem Xu
Huawei chip unit breaks into world top 10
Huawei is rapidly becoming a major force in technology globally, in spire of US sanctions. 

(ATF) The semiconductor arm of Huawei Technologies, became the first Chinese mainland company to enter the top 10 global chip rankings, a new report said.

HiSilicon moved up five places in the first quarter to 10th in just a year, market research company IC Insights said in its latest report.

Between January and March, the company notched up sales of $2.67 billion, up 54 % on a yearly basis, despite the US government restrictions and the coronavirus pandemic, the report said.

The strong results came close on the heels of HiSilicon surpassing US chip giant Qualcomm in smartphone processor shipments on the Chinese mainland for the first time. Its sales surge was stoked by coronavirus-linked disruptions that have harmed most of the major players, according to Chinese research firm CINNO.

The achievement highlights Huawei's resilience amid challenges and the company's technological advances, said Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association.

US reliance

The progress has also come about due to Huawei's efforts to reduce reliance on US technology after Washington placed sanctions on the company last May, restricting it from purchasing components and technologies from American companies, Xiang said.

"Huawei is beefing up its in-house chip research and development capabilities and diversifying its suppliers," Xiang said.

During the first quarter, HiSilicon shipped 22.21 million smartphone processors, a slight increase on the 22.17 million units it shipped in the period last year, according to CINNO data.

HiSilicon was the only major company that did not see a year-on-year decline during the quarter as the pandemic disrupted tech supply chains and production, CINNO said.

As a result, the Huawei unit's market share surged to 44%, from 37% in the previous quarter, beating Qualcomm, the longtime market leader, which took second place with a market share of 32.8 %.

Despite the progress, the Huawei unit is still well behind Intel, Samsung, SK Hynix, Micron and the others in the global top-10 rankings in terms of sales.

Also, Huawei is facing new challenges as Washington is reportedly planning new rules that would require foreign companies using US chipmaking equipment to obtain a license before supplying chips to Huawei-a move that would directly affect Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), an important chip manufacturing partner of Huawei. 

TSMC impact

Data from the IC Insights show that HiSilicon represented 14% of TSMC's sales last year, up from 5% in 2017.

In response, Huawei is reportedly shifting production of HiSilicon-designed chips away from TSMC to Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC).

The Shanghai-based chipmaker is planning to list on China's sci-tech innovation board, known the STAR Market, as it aims to raise more money to develop next-generation chipmaking technologies amid competition from TSMC.

SMIC said on Tuesday it would float 1.69 billion new shares on the Shanghai market, which could raise more than $3bn, according to estimates by Bloomberg.