Keeping Huawei out of LTE in U.S. could cost public safety money
Not surprisingly, Chinese manufacturer Huawei is out of the running for public-safety LTE contracts thanks to the decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce to block the vendor, citing concerns over security.
It’s a running theme for Huawei in the U.S. Last year Sprint Nextel reportedly decided to keep Huawei and ZTE out of the running for its multi-billion-dollar Network Vision infrastructure modernization project, because of pressure from lawmakers and the Commerce Department. They worry that Huawei’s chips, routers and other equipment could contain bugs that would give China’s government access to sensitive information.
Huawei has been working hard to gain the trust of U.S. officials, who remain concerned that the vendor has ties to the Chinese government and military. Within the last year it has established a national security committee, set up an accredited independent lab to keep tabs on its proprietary software, and has taken steps to ensure trusted delivery of all its products by using U.S. citizens to deliver them in this country. It also has been working with U.S. law firms to further its cause. Huawei is doing all of this because it wants a piece of the U.S. infrastructure market.
Still, the latest Pentagon report on the Chinese military singles out Huawei as a company that maintains close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, an allegation Huawei continues to deny. In an open letter posted in February on the company’s website, Ken Hu, Huawei’s deputy chairman, directly addressed questions over the company’s ties to the Chinese government and military. He characterized claims that Huawei receives financial support from the Chinese government or has ties to the Chinese military as “falsehoods” that “have had significant and negative impact on our business activity.”
Huawei now is pushing for transparency from the Commerce Department, but the agency won’t elaborate on its concerns. “This was a national security decision about a public-safety network,” an official told PC World. “The specific concerns won’t be elaborated on, because we don’t conduct national security analyses in public.”
William Plummer, Huawei’s vice president of external affairs, told the Financial Times that it is pushing the U.S. to substantiate its claims. “Stop the manufactured fear. If you have something to say, substantiate it,” he said.
Getting a foothold in the U.S. mobile infrastructure market will continue to be an uphill battle for Huawei, though it is making inroads with smaller contracts and handset deals with commercial carriers. And it has been willing to jump through security hoops elsewhere. In India, for example, it accepted new regulations that require telecom equipment suppliers to provide the government access to source-code and engineering designs for their equipment. And it has won contracts there.
But being a part of critical infrastructure such as public-safety LTE networks likely never will be achievable, regardless of any security steps Huawei would take to appease the U.S. government. That is unfortunate, because the vendor continues to drive up competition globally by aggressively bidding for contracts. Consequently, it would have been a key player in driving down LTE infrastructure pricing for the public-safety community.
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