China’s semiconductor sector jumped more than 2.5% on Wednesday over rumours that Huawei’s newly launched Mate 60 Pro phone could be using a 5G capable chip.
If true, the development of a homegrown 5G chip would mark a win for China’s local semiconductor sector, which has seen stock market gains of roughly 8% so far this week.
Huawei began selling its Mate 60 Pro around midday for 6,999 yuan ($960) in an unusually low-key fashion, having given no advance notice or conducted advertising.
Staff at Huawei and sales personnel at stores in Beijing and Shenzhen also said they were caught off-guard.
The specifications provided for the Mate 60 advertised its ability to make satellite calls, but provided no information on the power of the chipset inside.
Still, online users who managed to purchase the phone began posting videos of themselves conducting tests that they said showed it could match the network speeds of 5G chipset phones.
Some also shared screenshots saying the phone used a Kirin 9000s chip.
Washington has, since 2019, restricted Huawei from buying advanced chips and software from US companies, which has decimated its consumer electronics business.
The company has only been able to launch limited batches of 5G models using stockpiled chips and its woes have become a key flashpoint in US-China relations.
But research firms said last month that Huawei was plotting a return to the 5G smartphone industry by procuring chips domestically, using its own advances in semiconductor design tools along with chipmaking from Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co (SMIC).
SMIC is up roughly 10% for the week.
Huawei declined to comment on whether the phone was 5G capable but said in a statement the Mate 60 series was its most powerful Mate model ever.
Retail investor Lu Deyong said he bought shares in semiconductor firm Sai MicroElectronics Inc, which has business connections with Huawei, and the tech-focused STAR 50 Index, following the launch of the new Huawei phone.
“Shares rose and I saw that large sums of money flowed in, which showed very good attitude toward the launch and the technology behind it,” Lu said. “I cannot confirm if the technology is authentic, but I hope it is.”
Nicole Peng, Senior VP of Mobility at Canalys, said it would be crucial for Huawei to provide clarification on its technology, given the high level of market interest.
“If it is indeed true that Huawei is able to develop own 5G SoC (system-on-chip) that exceeds industry current development timeline, it signals a significant leap in its R&D capabilities. It creates huge disruption to the semi industry especially to its competitors,” she said.
“On the other hand, the doubt surrounding Huawei’s ability to develop 5G SoC and its vagueness about the product and launch could harm its credibility in the long run. It could turn south if the claims are false.”
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