Trump bets the farm on Huawei equipment ban


Huawei and 5G signs light up a Huawei mobile broadband forum in Zurich in 2019. PHOTO/Stefan Wermuth / AFP

US president opts for so-called nuclear option to stop Chinese telecom giant’s rollout of 5G mobile broadband

After a failed two-year campaign to stop China’s Huawei Technologies from leading the world’s rollout of 5G mobile broadband, the Trump Administration announced the so-called nuclear option, asserting control over sales of computer chips made anywhere in the world with US equipment.

Silicon Valley firms like LAM and Applied Materials provide high-end fabrication equipment to the chip-fabrication giants who manufacture the chips that Huawei designs, and the US rule announced Friday could shut off Huawei’s access to the top-of-the-line chips it buys from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp (TSMC).

The ban may apply not only to the high-end chips that Huawei buys from Taiwanese fabricators for its high-end smartphones and servers, but also to radio frequency devices that power its 5G base stations.

That might hold back China’s US$170 billion internal rollout of 5G and hamper Huawei’s network building elsewhere, according to industry experts.

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration floated a number of plans for competing with Huawei, including a “virtual 5G” approach that substitutes software for hardware, or the purchase of Sweden’s Ericsson, the second-largest builder of 5G networks.

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