If you were physically attending MWC 2023 at Barcelona this year, and you managed to pay Huawei’s booth a visit to have a look at its boards and barebones communications products, you may have noticed that the chips on said components had been blocked out with black tape or cooling blocks. This was done in order for the brand to hide the name of the suppliers that provided said chips.
In the Twitter post below, the images that were posted (you’re going to need to zoom into them) show that many of the chips on the logic boards were being concealed either by heatsinks, tape, or even radiators. The concealment was even applied to the memory ICs, so visitors to the booth would be kept guessing as to who provided the hardware.
Visiting the Huawei booth #MWC2023. They have a dozen or so boards on display and the package of every single chip on every single board is obscured. pic.twitter.com/gwMDorOdA6
— Jay Goldberg 顾忠南 (@jaygoldberg) March 1, 2023
As to why Huawei was forced to resort to this level of concealment is because the chips that are installed on these boards are chips designed and manufactured by electronic design automation (EDA) tools developed in the US, and very likely produced by equipment that also contains US-made technologies. And if you’re still not sure why that is a problem, allow us to get you up to speed.
Back in 2019, the then-Trump administration signed in an executive order that very squarely trained its sights on Huawei and its telecommunications business at the time. Not only did this ban prevent US companies from using equipment from the Chinese brand, it also prohibit the company from using US technologies – Google’s GMS was one such service that was forcibly removed from Huawei’s smartphones but not the use of Android OS, which in turn forced the brand to switch to its own self-named HMS APK.
When the Biden administration came into power, Huawei hoped that it would do away with the executive order but sadly, it chose to expand on the blacklist of Chinese firms. Fast forward to today, and the ongoing trade war has now seen the US impose further restrictions on semiconductor chips to be provided to Chinese firms.
That isn’t to say that firms like Huawei are completely cut off from US-made chips entirely, at least on an official level. The Chinese telecommunications giant can still apply for the appropriate licenses but given the current political atmosphere, it is unsurprisingly tricky. This, therefore, has forced the Shenzhen-based company to source out chips from the gray market and other more complicated means.
(Image source: Tom’s Hardware)
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