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Trump opens the door to Huawei, but only a fraction

Paul Brislen, Editor. 01 July 2019, 7:07 am

US President, Donald Trump, has suggested Huawei's time on the naughty step might be coming to an end, after rescinding his order that US companies not transact with the tech giant.

In May, Trump outlawed the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker and threatened sanctions on countries that engage with Huawei citing security concerns. The Australian government followed suit some time ago, refusing to allow Huawei to bid for mobile network build projects in Australia, but New Zealand has always taken a more pragmatic approach and Huawei equipment can be found throughout both mobile and fixed-line networks.

However, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) refused to grant a licence for Huawei to build Spark's 5G network, proposed for later this year, and that brings into doubt 2Degrees' planned 5G build as well.

Now Trump is suggesting sanctions against Huawei could be lifted as part of a thawing of trade relations with China.

This of course suggests the issue behind Huawei's blacklisting is more trade related than an actual security concern, which might leave the door open to the GCSB reviewing its decision.

However, the GCSB has said publicly that its decision was made purely on security grounds and it was not party to any political interference. The organisation has steadfastly refused to be drawn on what exactly its concerns are, however, which makes life difficult for both Spark and Huawei as they don't know quite what to fix.

Both the UK and EU have reviewed Huawei activity and said there are problems but not of a security nature. The UK centre that reviews Huawei equipment slammed the maker for shoddy software patching processes, but doesn't have concerns over embedded backdoor technology or similar issues.

The devil of course is in the detail, and Trump's announcement only covers the ability of US companies to sell equipment and products to Huawei so long as such a move wouldn't present a national security risk. It isn't a general amnesty on all Huawei activity.

Being caught between two superpowers has battered Huawei's profitability. The world's leading 5G equipment maker, Huawei has said it expects to see revenue drop by around US$30 billion in the next two years, following Trump's attacks. Whether this latest move changes the company's fortunes remains to be seen.


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Graham Harris 06 July 2019, 2:01 pm

There has not really been a reversal of US policy in any way that is meaningful.

According to the report, it's just that US companies can resume selling stuff to Huawei; notably, Google can continue providing Android updates for Huawei handsets.

US companies still cannot buy from Huawei, which means not incorporating Huawei equipment in networks. Similarly, nothing has changed re NZ telcos using Huawei in their networks- there is nothing new to spark a re-evaluation.

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