Huawei has developed custom chips that replace the FPGAs previously bought from US companies Xilinx and Intel/Altera. Those were the only major components of 5G cell site radios that were hard to source in Asia. Huawei has shipped 200,000 5G radios in 2019 and is ready to produce 1,500,000 or more in 2020.
“We carried out the testing in August and September, and from October on we will start scale production,” according to Ren. Reuters also reports Huawei’s Will Zhang believes,” the performance of the U.S.-free base stations was ‘no worse’ and the company ‘has had positive surprises'”.
FPGAs are semi-custom ships that replace multiple chips on a circuit board. They are slower and use more power than a custom-designed chip, so mostly are used for first trials and short runs.
It takes several months and costs millions to produce a dedicated chip. The industry practice is to switch from FPGA’s when the design is set and tens of thousands of units need to be produced. ZTE also has a dedicated chip; Nokia and Ericsson are rumored to be working on same.
Joe Madden, an experienced analyst, believes the European and Canadian carriers will not buy Huawei radios because they prefer the programmable FPGAs. That would be surprising, but I’ll check with senior technical people from the carriers at Huawei’s Mobile Broadband Forum in Zurich.
Huawei has made progress in replacing the radio components in mobile phones, the other important part in which Asia did not match the US. The blockade of Google apps on Huawei’s new phones is affecting sales in Europe, but that’s the only important problem Huawei faces from Trump’s war.
Despite the loss of some phone sales, Huawei is likely to show increased sales in the second half of 2019.