Huawei’s HiSilicon Loses Engineering Staff As Company Looks to Open 45nm Fabs

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As US sanctions on Chinese telecoms company Huawei loom over the horizon, the company’s (currently) fabless chipmaking subsidiary HiSilicon is now hemorrhaging engineers, according to DigiTimes.

“The mounting US trade sanctions are driving HiSilicon to the brink,” writes DigiTimes, “and many engineers have left the Huawei IC design arm’s team in Taiwan.”

Quotes from DigiTimes’ Huawei sources are hidden behind a paywall, but suffice to say that this is a serious blow given the company’s recent efforts to poach talent from Taiwanese and other international chipmakers. 

More troubling, though, is how this will impact Huawei’s recently leaked plans to build its own 45nm fabs. 45nm chipsets are already severely outdated at this point and won’t be suitable for the mobile phone market Huawei is known for, but losing HiSilicon engineers takes this shot for the moon and turns it into a shot for Pluto.

The departing engineers are likely responding to recent news that the United States will not grant extensions on the temporary general licenses that allowed companies using American designed chips (whether domestic or international) to continue trading with Huawei. These licenses expired Friday, and affected companies will now have to apply for new special licenses that are unlikely to be doled out liberally.

Despite efforts from companies like TSMC to continue to do business with Huawei, even the Taiwanese chip giant is now abandoning the company, releasing a statement over the weekend that it will not ship orders to Huawei after September 14th.

Huawei is currently working to bring its flagship Mate 40 and Mate 40 Pro smartphones to the market, which might be the last of the company’s phones to feature HiSilicon’s custom Kirin chips. Whether this will be enough to help it stave off what seems like a death sentence from the US, we do not know.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.