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Huawei Achieves 14 Nanometer Chip Design Tools Milestone But is Still Several Generations Behind

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (HWT.UL) has, according to a Reuters report, made groundbreaking breakthroughs in the complex area of electronic design automation, commonly referred to as EDA.

This technological advancement will impact chips manufactured at and above 14-nanometer, as shared in a speech by a senior executive of the company.

Huawei To Complete Testing On The Tools In 2023

The Chinse multinational telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer is expected to conclude testing on the tools before the end of this year, according to a speech given by rotating chairman Xu Zhijun on February 28, reported by the Chinese financial news magazine.

So far, Huawei has built 78 tools based on the chip hardware and software, the report said.

This milestone is set to change things for the better for Huawei at a time when tech firms in China are rushing to meet their supply chains locally amid a spike in United States sanctions.

In a report on Xu’s remarks, published by Caijing, Huawei achieved this feat through collaboration with local EDA manufacturers, whose input was tremendous for the software, “basically realizing the localization of EDA tools above 14nm.”

Design companies utilized Electronic Design Automation software to create the fundamental technical drawings (blueprints) for chips ahead of the planned mass production at fabs. XU added that Huawei will allow its partners and customers to use the software.

Huawei’s Milestone Falls Two Generations Behind

Although Huawei is celebrating this critical milestone, it is two generations behind, as chips manufactured at the 14-nanometer level were initially integrated into smartphones around the mid-2010s.

Huawei is known for its advancements in 5G telecommunications networks, but its operations have been hitting resounding barriers due to numerous sanctions by the US. Export controls have been in place since 2019, limiting the company’s access to chips and chip-design tools, especially those from the US.

Three overseas companies dominate the EDA software market, starting with Cadence Design Systems Inc (CDNS.O) and Synopsys Inc (SNPS.O), both are United States manufacturers. The third company, Mentor Graphics is owned by Siemens AG in Germany.

There are a handful of Chinese firms producing EDA software locally but experts reckon that they are not very competitive at a global level.

Huawei’s smartphone segment almost came to a standstill in 2020 when US sanctions restricted exports from the three major EDA software producers.

At the time, Huawei’s chip blueprints could no longer receive updates nor access new software, which it desperately needed to build low-node processors for its smartphone devices—and access the latest manufacturing tools at chip production fabs.

Due to these bottlenecks, the company’s smartphone division saw its sales plummet by large margins.

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