Alibaba’s T-Head and Alipay to Release RISC-V-Based Chips for Secure Mobile Payments Despite US Export Restrictions

Alibaba’s T-Head and Alipay to Release RISC-V-Based Chips for Secure Mobile Payments Despite US Export Restrictions

Table of Content

In this article, we will delve into the recent announcement by Alibaba Group Holding’s chip unit T-Head and Alipay, the payment service provider under Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group, about the release of computing chips for secure payments based on the RISC-V instruction set architecture. 

Key takeaways:

  • Alibaba’s T-Head and Ant Group’s Alipay have announced the release of RISC-V-based chips for secure payments in hardware devices.
  • The collaboration comes amidst increasing investment by Chinese companies in chip development, following US export restrictions on China’s semiconductor sector.
  • The open-source nature of RISC-V’s design makes it less susceptible to export restrictions, making it an attractive alternative to the dominant chip architecture for mobile computing chips from UK-based Arm Ltd.
  • Chinese companies are showing growing enthusiasm for RISC-V, with more and more of them joining consortiums for this type of chip architecture.
  • Ni Guangnan, a well-known computer scientist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, has referred to China as the “backbone” of RISC-V. This suggests that the chip industry and ecosystem in China will shift towards a greater focus on this particular type of chip architecture.

Alibaba Group Holding’s chip unit T-Head and Alipay, the payment service provider under Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group, have announced the release of computing chips for secure payments based on the RISC-V instruction set architecture. 

This move comes as Chinese companies are heavily investing in chip development due to U.S. export restrictions on China’s semiconductor sector.

RISC-V-based Chips to Enhance Mobile Payments

The RISC-V-based chips will be embedded in hardware devices and used to enhance mobile payments, which are very popular in China via the use of QR codes. 

Although the spokesperson did not specify a release date for the chips, they stated that they will be placed in commercially available hardware devices soon, and produced in collaboration with other chip-design companies.

T-Head Unveiled Xuantie Series in 2019

In 2019, a unit under Alibaba’s cloud computing division called T-Head introduced the Xuantie series of RISC-V-based core processors. 

This move was part of a larger trend in which many Chinese tech companies invested in RISC-V, a different kind of chip architecture than the dominant one used in mobile computing chips made by UK-based Arm Ltd. 

One of the advantages of RISC-V is that it has an open-source design, which makes it less vulnerable to export restrictions. 

Recently, Alibaba hosted its first “Xuantie RISC-V Developer Ecosystem Conference” to showcase the chip, with attendees from companies such as Alphabet Inc, Intel Corp, and Imagination Technologies.

Growing Enthusiasm for RISC-V in China

In 2019, the US imposed export restrictions on China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, which affected the company’s access to ARM designs. In late 2022, the US imposed export restrictions on Chinese chip fabs and research labs. 

The growing interest of Chinese companies in RISC-V has made China a key player in this type of chip architecture. This has resulted in more Chinese firms joining consortiums that focus on RISC-V.

During the event, Chinese Academy of Engineering’s well-known computer scientist, Ni Guangnan, referred to China as the foundation of RISC-V. 

Media reports state that he mentioned, “China’s chip industry and its ecosystem will continue to emphasize the RISC-V architecture.”

Conclusion

The collaboration between Alibaba’s T-Head division and Ant Group’s Alipay to release RISC-V-based chips for secure payments in hardware devices is a significant move, given the increasing investment by Chinese companies in chip development amidst US export restrictions. 

With RISC-V’s open license architecture gaining popularity in China, it is likely that more and more companies will follow suit and further push the adoption of this alternative chip architecture.

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Written by

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling

Alexander Sterling is a renowned financial writer with over 10 years in the finance sector. With a strong economics background, he simplifies complex financial topics for a wide audience. Alexander contributes to top financial platforms and is working on his first book to promote financial independence.

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Judith

Judith

Judith Harvey is a seasoned finance editor with over two decades of experience in the financial journalism industry. Her analytical skills and keen insight into market trends quickly made her a sought-after expert in financial reporting.