Huawei is poised to resume production of 5G smartphones before the end of this year, research firms told CNET on Monday, indicating the end of a years-long disruption due to US sanctions that cut it off from vital American technology.
The Chinese phonemaker is expected to use locally made 5G processors in its forthcoming phones, according to two research firms that requested anonymity, instead of chipsets produced overseas. Researchers at those firms said the phones will run on processors designed at Huawei’s chip design subsidiary, HiSilicon, and eventually manufactured by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co., the country’s largest contract manufacturer of semiconductors.
Huawei declined to comment on what it called “industry rumors.” SMIC didn’t respond to a CNET request for comment. This news was first reported by Reuters.
Huawei is also poised to launch new 5G phones as early as the end of this year, one research firm said. Despite the potential re-addition of 5G, Huawei phones will likely remain a tough sell to shoppers outside its native China since those devices will lack crucial software and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail. It is unlikely Huawei will launch its new 5G phones in the US.
The US has long alleged that Huawei maintains a tight relationship with the Chinese government, creating worries that equipment from the company could be used to spy on other countries and companies. Huawei has repeatedly denied this.
Huawei was once among the top smartphone companies in the world, rivaling Apple and Samsung. However, phone sales have fallen dramatically since the Trump administration imposed a series of sanctions on the Chinese telecom giant beginning in 2019, in an effort to curtail its dominance. In 2020, Washington cut off Huawei’s global chip supply in a broadened round of sanctions that effectively banned global companies that use American technology or equipment from doing business with Huawei.
Since then, Huawei has been relegated to producing mostly 4G phones or relying on a limited supply of stockpiled 5G chips. The last 5G chipset Huawei developed in-house was the Kirin 9000 5G, which powered 2020’s Mate 40 Pro.
Prior to the ban, Huawei relied on Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of semiconductor chips, to produce 5G chipsets designed in-house at Huawei’s HiSilicon unit.