Why Huawei’s days in UK could be num­bered

Iran Daily - - Science & Technology -

The UK govern­ment is inch­ing to­ward tak­ing a de­ci­sion on Huawei’s role in the UK’S 5G and fixed-broad­band net­works.

The Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Cen­tre (NCSC) — a branch of the in­tel­li­gence ser­vice GCHQ — has doc­u­mented all the facts ahead of giv­ing its view, BBC News re­ported.

And civil ser­vants at the De­part­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport (DCMS) are weigh­ing up the fi­nan­cial con­se­quences of or­der­ing a ban or new lim­its.

In the­ory, a de­ci­sion could come as soon as next week but it is likely to take a bit longer.

Those fol­low­ing devel­op­ments would be for­given for hav­ing a sense of deja vu.

It was only in Jan­uary that the UK govern­ment an­nounced, fol­low­ing a lengthy re­view, that the Chi­nese firm could con­tinue to pro­vide equip­ment and ex­per­tise to the UK net­works, al­beit with a new cap on its mar­ket share.

Wash­ing­ton has con­tin­ued to as­sert that Huawei poses a na­tional se­cu­rity risk — most re­cently claim­ing it is ei­ther backed or owned by the Chi­nese mil­i­tary — some­thing the firm de­nies.

But it is not this, but rather the threat of new US sanc­tions, that might change the UK’S course.

The sanc­tions threaten Huawei’s abil­ity to pro­vide the be­hind-the-scenes kit that trans­mits data back and forth, as well as its abil­ity to make the hand­sets and other con­sumer goods for which it is renowned.

To un­der­stand why, one needs to be­come ac­quainted with a lit­tle-re­ported side to the tech in­dus­try.

Sim­u­lated chips

When Huawei an­nounced its flag­ship Kirin 990 5G chip last year, it boasted “over 10 bil­lion tran­sis­tors are con­densed in this tiny chipset.”

The rea­son such in­tri­cate prod­ucts can be made is that the days of lay­ing out such chips by hand have long passed.

In­stead, the semi­con­duc­tor in­dus­try re­lies on a type of soft­ware known as electronic de­sign au­toma­tion (EDA).

“It’s the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble to man­u­ally de­sign to­day’s chips, but it’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult and would take a long time,” ex­plained Jim Tully, an in­de­pen­dent in­dus­try an­a­lyst.

“In­stead, au­to­mated soft­ware is used to help with the phys­i­cal lay­out of the chip, but also to de­sign its log­i­cal func­tion­al­ity — its ar­rays of mem­ory cells and mi­cro­pro­ces­sor cores, its abil­ity to com­press the sig­nals and also to carry out spe­cial func­tions for the in­puts and the out­puts of a chip.

“And the soft­ware is also used to sim­u­late the chip work­ing, be­cause once you put it into the manufactur­ing process it is ex­tremely ex­pen­sive.”

In prac­tice, hu­mans carry out the de­sign work by de­scrib­ing the be­hav­iors they want in com­puter code, and the soft­ware then trans­lates this into a phys­i­cal de­sign.

The prob­lem for Huawei is that the three lead­ing EDA soft­ware-mak­ers all have ties to the US. And the sanc­tions for­bid the Chi­nese firm and the third par­ties that man­u­fac­ture its chips from us­ing “US tech­nol­ogy and soft­ware to de­sign and man­u­fac­ture” its prod­ucts.

Synop­sys and Ca­dence are both based in Cal­i­for­nia. And while Ger­many’s Siemens bought Men­tor Graph­ics in 2017, it still has its head­quar­ters in Wil­sonville, Ore­gon.

Even if Huawei could get round this, the sanc­tions also ban fab­ri­ca­tors from us­ing semi­con­duc­tor manufactur­ing equip­ment based on US tech.

That ef­fec­tively locks Huawei out from the equip­ment needed to print the small­est­sized tran­sis­tors cur­rently pos­si­ble, which in turn lim­its how ef­fi­ciently its prod­ucts can run.

So, while Huawei could try to skirt round the sanc­tions by shift­ing its busi­ness to China’s pre­dom­i­nant foundry — Shanghai-based Semi­con­duc­tor Manufactur­ing In­ter­na­tional Corp. (SMIC) — that com­pany, too, needs to obey the US rules or would face con­se­quences of its own that might threaten its wider busi­ness.

Read the full ar­ti­cle on: www.irandai­ly­on­line.ir/ News/270629.html


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