Huawei, ZTE declared US national security threats

Above: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

On June 30, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announced that Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation, along with any related businesses were designated in the words of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, as “national security risks to America’s communications networks—and to our 5G future.”

“We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure,” Pai said of the decision which was immediately implemented.

The declaration specifically disbars any access to the Universal Service Fund, a US$8.3 billion resource budgeted annually for spending on Internet infrastructure on underserved areas of the US.

In the final order, PS Docket No. 19-351 authored by the Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, the following statement is made, “…we conclude that Huawei poses a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks and the communications supply chain.”

In response, Huawei issued a press release restating its position on the initial designation from November 2019.

“In 30 years of business, Huawei has never had a major security-related incident in the 170 countries we operate. Huawei is trusted by over two-billion consumers, partners with many of the Fortune 500 businesses, and supplies more than 500 network operators around the world.

Banning specific vendors based on country origin will do nothing to protect America’s telecommunications networks. Today’s proposal, released by the FCC Chairman, only impacts the broadband providers in the most unserved or underserved rural areas of the United States. Such action will further widen the digital divide; slowing the pace of economic development without further securing the Nation’s telecommunications networks.

The FCC is aware of alternative measures that could solve both issues – continuing to enhance connectivity in those areas while actually improving the security of US networks – but Chairman Pai is choosing to also ignore what is considered best practices around the globe.  Huawei remains open to engage with the US government and policy makers to find a productive solution to safeguard the US telecommunications system.”

Huawei’s business in the US has been adversely affected by a series of rolling bans and restrictions. It’s newest smartphones can only use the open-source version of Google’s Android OS, which is updated less frequently than the version that targets smartphone manufacturers and Huawei does not have access to Google’s software services on the new devices.

The new P40 series phones, largely unavailable in the US, ship with a Huawei app store installed in place of Google’s Play Store.

The company has shifted much of its marketing of new smartphone devices since November 2019 to Europe and Latin America and has announced success ventures building networks and deploying equipment in support of 5G networks in those regions as well.

The United States government has applied pressure on its trusted nation partners, particularly those in the Five Eyes surveillance initiative, to stop doing business with Huawei as a telecommunications equipment provider and to strip its hardware out of their networks.