Chip processor and semiconductor designer ARM has informed its staff that they must immediately stop all contracts and engagements with Huawei, bringing the UK-based company in line with a US directive.
A company memo obtained by the BBC reveals that staff at ARM were informed on the 16 of May that ARM was adding Huawei to a list of organisations that they could no longer have any business contact with, in any capacity.
Incredibly this complete cut in business ties even extends to ARM staff attending industry events such as technology conferences, where ARM staff have been advised if they encounter Huawei personnel they must “politely decline and stop” any interactions or conversations with regards to the business.
An ARM spokesperson confirmed to Computer Business Review that: “ARM is complying with all of the latest regulations set forth by the U.S. government.”
A reason for the compliance may be due to the fact that ARM in the memo referred to its chip designs as having “US origin technology.” Many of ARM’s processor designs are developed in facilities in San Jose, Cailfornia, and Austin, Texas.
A Huawei spokesperson has also responded to the news commenting that: “We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognise the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions. We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world.”
Yet this is a significant partner for the Chinese telecommunications giant to lose. ARM designed architecture is at the heart of most mobile telecommunication devices. ARM doesn’t manufacture its semiconductor technologies, rather it designs and then through licence agreements supplies them to other companies with manufacturing capabilities. So losing the right to use ARM developed designs means they are cut out of an extensive chunk of the smartphone supply chain.
US Huawei Ruling
Huawei is suffering blow after blow in the past few months as the United States dictates that all American companies must stop using its technology and to stop supplying it with technology. This month Google announced that it would no longer support Android operating systems on Huawei phones.
However, the US has issued a temporary reprieve on the blanket ban for some operators allowing them to continue to work with Huawei for the next 90 days, over which Google will continue to rollout updates to the Android OS on Huawei phones.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross wrote on the agencies website that: “The Temporary General License grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services.”
“In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks.”
Many analyst are pointing to the insider understanding that Huawei has anticipated this type of directive from the US. The company has reportedly stored enough US manufactured parts to last at least three months.
The company sources many key components for building its smartphones from US-based companies like Skyworks, Qorvo and Micron.
Yet the ability to use ARM designed architecture cannot be understated. HiSilicon is a fabless semiconductor company fully owned by Huawei based in Shenzhen, China, as is Huawei. Unfortunately HiSilicon purchases many of its licenses for CPU designs directly from ARM, such as the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore, ARM Cortex-M3 and the ARM Cortex-A7 MPCore.
Previously HiSilicon has also purchased license designs for graphics core from the Vivante Corporation, which again is an American based company.
Technology analysts on Twitter played the guessing game of where the company could move to alleviate the problem, but are finding all roads lead back to US manufactures……
Most AMD's CPUs use the x86 architecture, which is licenses from Intel
Not sure if that's a viable option…
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) May 22, 2019