HiSilicon launched 4G communication chips on an open market, making it official that Huawei’s internal IC division is now externally supplying a host of chips to the industry.
While Huawei HiSilicon is the largest chip design company in China, it has always had just one customer: Huawei.
Huawei’s strategy to keep HiSilicon as an internal unit — tasked to design and supply its chips only to Huawei — has worked well for the global telecom giant. Especially, since HiSilicon’s Kirin series of chips, capable of AI processing, has given Huawei a huge advantage over competitors.
It turns out, however, that HiSilicon has been quietly spreading its wings, supplying chips in some sub-sectors, a move Huawei and HiSilicon had not acknowledged before.
During ELEXCON 2019, a Shenzhen electronics show held October 2019, Shanghai HiSilicon, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Huawei established in April 2019, launched 4G communication chips on the open market. This is the first instance of Huawei and HiSilicon revealing that HiSilicon is no longer Huawei’s captive chipmaker.
At the trade show, Zhao Qiujing, director of platform and solution marketing from Shanghai HiSilicon Technology Co., Ltd., revealed an open strategy for HiSilicon to sell chips externally to the industry. Shanghai HiSilicon was established in Shanghai’s Qingpu District on April 1, 2019, with a registered capital of 80 million yuan. Top management consists of Chairman Zhao Minglu and general manager Xiong Wei. The company directors include He Tingbo and Peng Qiuen. Responsible for HiSilicon’s internal sales of chips [to Huawei] is still Shenzhen HiSilicon, but Shanghai HiSilicon is a chip design company for the open market.
Break down barriers, making 5G + 8K + AI open
Huawei and HiSilicon are aligned in their vision of building “a world where all things are perceived, and all things are connected.” The core of “Everything Connected” is the chip and key components. Shanghai HiSilicon wants to provide core chips and components to enable the terminals that are the industrial, digital, and intelligent industrial cornerstones in a range of industries.
In efforts to enable this objective, cope with global competition and seize new opportunities formed by the integration of 5G, AI and IoT, HiSilicon is adapting its product lines.
HiSilicon, no longer a captive designer, is seeking to break down barriers between products for internal use and those for the open market. Names for its product lines have changed and its scope of business is broadening.
- HiSilicon has renamed its earliest and highest-selling product line, Camera product line. Now, it’s called Smart Vision. Camera mainly supplied the professional security monitoring field. Now, with Smart Vision, HiSilicon is pushing toward a wider range of visual perception computing products for consumer electronics and automotive electronics .
- HiSilicon’s two product lines — set-top box and TV — are merging into a Smart Media product line. HiSilicon hopes to expand its market from independent TV brands and set-top box operators to all-screen smart terminals and future smart home centers, by providing a platform for integrated computing to external developers.
- HiSilicon will actively expand its connectivity business. The AI/IoT (AIoT) application field is very complex and extensive. HiSilicon now sells 4G and 5G chips, pursuing the AIoT smart connection markets. In line with this, HiSilicon has set up a network designed to mainly serve home network access and attain full coverage through PON + Wi-Fi. In addition, HiSilicon now has three business incubation groups. The new units are a display group focusing on devices for large, medium and small screens, automotive electronics targeting the intelligent connected car market through intelligent vision cameras, and a robotics group that will pursue the potential for emerging fields.
All these changes boil down to one sentence. HiSilicon is breaching its old boundaries in an effort to provide full-scale intelligent terminal chip solutions.
— Steve Gu is chief analyst of EE Times China.