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Exclusive: Nvidia offers new high-end chip for China that meets US export controls

OAKLAND, Calif., Nov 7 (Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp ( NVDA.O ) is offering a new advanced chip in China that meets recent export control rules aimed at keeping cutting-edge technology out of China’s hands, the company confirmed on Monday.

Nvidia responded to Reuters reporting that Chinese computer vendors are advertising products with the new chip.

The chip, called the A800, represents the first reported effort by a U.S. semiconductor company to make advanced processors for China that comply with new U.S. trade rules. Nvidia has said the export restrictions could cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

US regulations imposed in early October banned the export of advanced microchips and equipment to produce advanced chips by Chinese chip makers, part of an effort to hinder China’s semiconductor industry and, in turn, its military.

In late August, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices Inc AMD.O both said their advanced chips, including Nvidia’s data center chip A100, were added to the export control list by the U.S. Commerce Department. The Nvidia A800 can be used in place of the A100, and both are GPUs, or graphics processing units.

Such advanced chips can cost thousands of dollars each.

“The Nvidia A800 GPU, which entered production in Q3, is another alternative product to the Nvidia A100 GPU for customers in China. The A800 meets the US government’s clear test for reduced export controls and cannot be programmed to exceed it,” writes Nvidia. spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

Nvidia declined to comment on whether it consulted the Commerce Department about the new chip. A spokesperson for the Department of Commerce declined to comment.

At least two Chinese websites from major server manufacturers offer the A800 chip in their products. One of these products previously used the A100 chip in advertising material.

A distributor website in China detailed the specifications of the A800. A comparison of the chip characteristics with the A100 shows that the chip-to-chip data transfer rate is 400 gigabytes per second on the new chip, down from 600 gigabytes per second on the A100. The new rules limit speeds of 600 gigabytes per second and above.

“The A800 appears to be a repackaged A100 GPU designed to avoid the recent Commerce Department trade restrictions,” said Wayne Lam, an analyst at CCS Insight, basing his comments on the specifications shared by Reuters, noting that eight is a lucky number in China .

“China is a significant market for Nvidia, and it makes good business sense to reconfigure your product to avoid trade restrictions,” Lam said.

Lam said the chip-to-chip communication capabilities of the A800 represented a clear performance downgrade for a data center where thousands of chips are used together.

Major Chinese server makers Inspur and H3C that offer servers with the new chips did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did chip distributor OmniSky, which posted the A800 specifications online.

Nvidia has said that about $400 million in chip sales to China could be affected in its fiscal third quarter that ended in October because of the limits on high-end chips. Having a replacement chip can help lessen the financial blow. The company will report quarterly results on 16 November.

Reporting by Jane Lanhee Lee in Oakland, California. Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in Shanghai and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Peter Henderson, Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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