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Qualcomm gets US permission to sell 4G phone chips to Huawei

It's a rare exception to the trade ban.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 14, 2020
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BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 15: People visit the Huawei stand during PT Expo China (PTEXPO) at China National Convention Center on October 15, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
VCG via Getty Images

The US is making an exception to a ban against Huawei buying US chip technology — if a slight one. Qualcomm has confirmed to Reuters that it has received US government permission to sell 4G phone chips to Huawei. The American company didn’t say which chips were allowed, although the 4G nature makes clear these aren’t the company’s higher-end, 5G-equipped modems or processors.

Until the trade ban, Huawei was using its in-house Kirin chips for high-end phones (the Mate 40 still does) and Qualcomm’s Snapdragons for budget models. Qualcomm reportedly asked for permission to keep selling those chips with claims that non-US rivals would simply fill the gap.

Huawei’s phone business is still in trouble no matter what 4G chips Qualcomm sells. With limited access to foreign silicon and a lack of cutting-edge Chinese chip manufacturing, the company may have to radically scale back its mobile strategy. It’s even rumored to be selling its budget Honor brand. Exceptions like Qualcomm’s might keep the business alive, but not necessarily much more.

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