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Nvidia and AMD say they face new restrictions on AI chip sales

Nvidia and AMD say they face new restrictions on AI chip sales


The Biden administration says it hasn’t ‘blocked’ chip sales, though.

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Nvidia and AMD say they face new restrictions in some Middle Eastern countries, Reuters reports. This widens the restrictions on these chips beyond China and Russia. The new licensing requirement applies to “a subset” of Nvidia’s top-end chips, the company said.

The Biden administration “has not blocked chip sales to the Middle East,“ says a spokesperson from the Bureau of Industry and Security. She noted that the BIS is legally restricted from publicly releasing information related to specific licenses — and so could not comment on any company-specific actions.

Nvidia announced the new licensing requirement in a regulatory filing. Its statement reads:

There are also now licensing requirements to export a wide array of products, including networking products, destined for certain end users and for certain end uses in China. During the second quarter of fiscal year 2024, the USG [US government] also informed us of an additional licensing requirement for a subset of A100 and H100 products destined to certain customers and other regions, including some countries in the Middle East

Nvidia added that it didn’t anticipate the constraints would have “an immediate material impact.” AMD received a letter “with similar restrictions,” Reuters says. No specific countries were named, and there was no explanation for the restrictions in Nvidia’s regulatory filing.

The licensing requirement for the Middle East and other countries “doesn’t affect a meaningful portion of our revenue,” said Nvidia spokesperson Bob Sherbin. “We are working with the US government to address this matter.”

AMD didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Nvidia’s A100 and H100 chips have been the subject of export restrictions by the Biden administration, which seems specifically concerned about their use in China in military applications. Previously, the US government told Nvidia that it wants to “address the risk that the covered products may be used in, or diverted to, a ‘military end use’ or ‘military end user’ in China and Russia.” In the most recent filing, Nvidia says there is a risk that “our results and competitive position may be harmed, and we may be effectively excluded from all or part of the China market if there are further changes” in export controls.

Nvidia’s H100 chips are valuable enough that startups can use them as collateral for loans. “I’ve spent this week talking with sources throughout the AI industry, from the big AI labs to cloud providers and small startups, and come away with this: everyone is operating under the assumption that H100s will be nearly impossible to get through at least the first half of next year,” our own Alex Heath has reported. “The lead time for new orders, if you can get them, is roughly six months, or an eternity in the AI space.“

Update August 31st, 4:30PM ET: Added comments from Nvidia, the US Department of Commerce.