AT&T Urged by Lawmakers to Cut Ties with China's Huawei

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that lawmakers are not only pressing AT&T to cut commercial ties with Huawei, but to also oppose plans by the giant telecom operator China Mobile to enter the US market because of similar security concerns.

In keeping with the prevailing sentiment in Congress, a bill has been introduced by Republicans Michael Conaway and Liz Cheney to prevent the government from doing business with Huawei or ZTE, the latter being a Chinese telecommunications and systems and equipment firm.

Given these concerns with Chinese companies and the fact that phones from Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Motorola, TCL, Apple, and others are made in China, we wanted to see what other options people may have for phones made outside of China. This seems more like a battle in a wider trade war than something related to spying. The aim of the bill is to ban USA government agencies from using phones and equipment of Huawei and ZTE phones.

One of the commercial ties senators and House members want AT&T to cut is its collaboration with Huawei over standards for the high-speed next generation 5G network, the aides said. But the 2011 Congressional report doesn't cite direct evidence that the company is compromised, instead saying that Huawei has failed to provide evidence that would "satisfy any fair and full investigation", and Huawei has consistently denied allegations of collusion with the Chinese government.

It was rumored at the time that AT&T removed itself from talks with Huawei due to pressure from certain federal regulators, and a report from Reuters appears to confirm that is indeed the case. According to two congressional aides, USA lawmakers are taking steps to hamper any plans by China Mobile Ltd.to extend their telecom operations to the US, over similar fears of over national security. "Another is the use of Huawei handsets by AT&T's discount subsidiary Cricket".

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"We hope that China and the United States can work hard together to maintain the healthy and stable development of trade and business ties". But it compounds the notion that Huawei is bad news for the U.S., which will be particularly disappointing to its mobile division lead Richard Yu, who spoke on stage about the company's commitment to security at CES only a few days ago. Last month, it was rumored that Huawei, the third biggest smartphone maker in the world, and Xiaomi were in talks with some mobile carriers in the United States to bring phones there this year.

Two congressional aides, who are unnamed, told Reuters that government officials fear that the increasing dominance of Chinese companies, such as Huawei, could threaten the country's security. Today, Reuters reported that unidentified USA lawmakers asked AT&T to stop collaborating with Huawei on standards for its next-generation 5G network, and cut ties to Huawei altogether.

Huawei has long protested that its equipment contains no backdoors that could threaten U.S. communications infrastructure, however.

USA lawmakers do not want China Mobile to be given a license to do business in the United States, the congressional aides said.

  • Douglas Reid