Qualcomm has received a licence from the US government to sell 4G mobile phone chips to China’s Huawei Technologies, an exemption to US trade restrictions imposed amid rising tensions with China.
“We received a licence for a number of products, which includes some 4G products,” a Qualcomm spokeswoman said.
Qualcomm and all other American semiconductor companies were forced to stop selling to the Chinese technology firm in September after US trade restrictions took effect.
The spokeswoman declined to comment on the specific 4G products Qualcomm can sell to Huawei but said they were related to mobile devices. Qualcomm has other licence applications pending with the US government, she said.
In the past, Huawei was a relatively small chip customer for Qualcomm, which is the biggest supplier of mobile phone chips. Huawei used its own house-designed chips in its flagship handsets but used Qualcomm chips in lower-priced models.
Huawei’s potential to design its own chips was thwarted in September by US trade restrictions that blocked its access to chip design software and fabrication tools. Industry analysts believe Huawei’s stockpile of chips purchased before the ban could run out early next year, crippling its smartphone business.
Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said the Qualcomm licence would have a “limited impact” because it covers only 4G chips while consumers are shifting to newer 5G devices. Rasgon said it is still unclear whether US officials will grant Qualcomm licences for 5G smartphone chips.
Representatives for Huawei and the US department of commerce, which grants the licences, declined to comment.
Other US companies such as Micron Technology were also stopped from selling to Huawei and have said they have applied for licences. Intel has also said it has a licence to sell to Huawei. — Reported by Stephen Nellis, (c) 2020 Reuters