Qualcomm gets licence to sell 4G chips to Huawei

Qualcomm Building
(Image credit: Jejim / Shutterstock)

Qualcomm has received a licence from the US government to sell certain types of chips to Huawei, bypassing sanctions that have been in place since last year.

The San Diego-based chip manufacturer confirmed to Reuters that had received an exemption for certain 4G products but did not specify which technologies were covered by the licence.  

Huawei has been on the US ‘non-entity’ list since 2019, a status which bans it from doing business with American tech firms on national security grounds. This has limited its access to key technologies such as Google applications and US-manufactured components.

Qualcomm Huawei

Earlier this year, Washington tightened the screw even further by closing what it believed to be a “technical loophole” that allowed chipmakers to ensure their components are not classified as ‘US-made’ despite including American technologies.

These restrictions have severely impacted Huawei’s access to off-the-shelf technologies, design software, and manufacturing tools. This has made the production of its custom Kirin chipsets impossible and it is thought the firm’s supply could be exhausted by next year, threatening the future of its smartphone business.

The ability to deal with Qualcomm will not remedy the severity of the situation given Huawei has only used the former’s chips in its cheaper models and in limited quantities. However, Qualcomm also told the news agency that it had other licence applications in the pipeline.

The ability to use Qualcomm’s 5G chipsets would be a boost for Huawei’s future ambitions in the market even if it wouldn’t compensate for the loss of the highly customised Kirin processors that have powered many of the differentiating features of Huawei’s flagship devices.

Qualcomm declined to comment to TechRadar Pro when asked if these applications covered its 5G products.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.