Amazing Chinese Chip Makers Are Slowing Down Their Processors
Chinese Chip Makers Are Slowing Down Their Processors To Circumvent US Sanctions - Media
Chinese Chip Makers Are Slowing Down Their Processors To Circumvent US Sanctions – Media
China’s largest chipmakers Alibaba and Biren Technology and others are now spending millions of dollars building processor designs for the country’s next generation of supercomputers, AI algorithms, and data centers. These designs are produced outside of the country by the world’s largest chip manufacturer, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC).
But sanctions announced by the US last month are limiting the computing power of any semiconductor, undermining that supply chain. US export controls (which allow such imports only if licensed) apply to third-country chip manufacturers since almost all such factories use US components or software.
This means that the restrictions could lead to a virtual embargo on all high-end processors shipped to China. Previously, the States restricted such imports from Californian companies Nvidia and AMD. China’s own chip factories lag far behind in producing cutting-edge chips like Alibaba and Biren.
Analysts believe that Washington’s sanctions are aimed at forcibly slowing down China’s technology sector because high-performance processors are needed for research in the field of supercomputing and artificial intelligence.
As a result, Alibaba and Biren were forced to halt further production of the chips and make changes to their designs, six people familiar with the situation told the FT.
The key metric that limits the import of microhips into China is bi-directional transmission speed – that is, the speed at which they send data to each other. For example, export controls limit data transfer rates to 600 gigabytes per second (Gb/s).
Archival versions of Biren’s website before the US sanctions show that the company’s first BR100 processor delivers 640Gbps data transfer rates, above US limits. However, the Biren website now lists specs at 576 Gbps, which is below the limit.
At the same time, Alibaba is studying how to modify its new 5nm processor designed to work with artificial intelligence. The changes being considered could require another test run at TSMC, which would mean a multi-month delay before release and could cost $10M or more.
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