The US restrictions imposed on the sales of Nvidia’s advanced artificial intelligence chips to China have created an opening for
to win market share. According to a report by Reuters, Huawei has won a considerable
order from Chinese tech giant
in 2023. The Chinese smartphone maker Huawei is known globally for its telecom and smartphone businesses.
However, the company has been developing its AI chip lineup for the past four years. Huawei’s Ascend AI chip series which includes the 910B chipset. This platform is the company’s main product to rival
‘s A100 chip.
How Huawei entered the AI chip business
In 2018, Huawei unveiled the Ascend 910 chip for the first time. This chip was a part of the company’s strategy to build a full-stack AI portfolio and become a provider of computing power. The chip was officially launched in 2019, the same year, the company became the target of US export controls.
In 2019, Huawei claimed that this chip was the world’s most powerful AI processor. Chinese media also reported that the original Ascend 910 was manufactured on a 7-nanometer process.
However, this chip was unable to affect Nvidia’s dominance both inside and outside China. The US-based chipmaker introduced its A100 and H100 chips in 2020 and 2022, respectively. This chip dominated the majority of the AI chip market share globally.
Experts also claim that the existing AI projects on Nvidia’s software ecosystem give the company an advantage over Huawei. Analysts have also noted that Huawei’s ecosystem version called CANN is more limited in terms of the AI models it is capable of training.
Huawei 910B chip: What is it and how it competes with Nvidia
The new Ascend 910B chipset is an improved version of the older 910 chip. Huawei has yet to officially announce the latest chipset. However, some Chinese companies and academics have revealed a few details about the upcoming chip in public comments. Huawei has also shared technical guides about the chipset on its official website. Documents related to Ascend 910B, such as driver and firmware upgrade guides, started appearing on Huawei’s website in August.
The same month, the chairman of Chinese AI giant iFlytek, Liu Qingfeng, praised Huawei for producing a
that he said was “basically the same as Nvidia’s A100”. Qingfeng also said that
was working with Huawei to develop hardware.
Later, another report claimed that the hardware was powered by Ascend 910B, which had not been previously known. In October, during iFlyTek’s earnings call, senior vice president Jiang Tao once again said the Ascend 910B’s capabilities were “comparable to Nvidia’s A100”.
The report also notest that Baidu ordered 1,600 of Huawei 910B chips for 200 servers in August.
Analysts and sources say that the 910B chips are comparable to Nvidia’s in terms of raw computing power. However, these chips still lag in performance. Currently, they are the most sophisticated domestic option available in China.
Future of Huawei and China’s AI chip market
As per analysts, China’s AI chip market is expected to be worth $7 billion. Also, the market share from Nvidia is expedited to mark a win for Huawei against the United States.
In September, Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou said that the company wants to build a computing base for China and give the world a “second option”.
China’s AI firms will have to rely on domestic products like Huawei’s less powerful chips as Nvidia platforms are unavailable in the country. However, analysts have predicted that Huawei is expected to close this gap soon. The Chinese government is also reportedly pouring in huge amounts of support and investment into AI and semiconductors.