Thursday, 03 May 2018 06:00

Stores at US bases told to remove Huawei, ZTE phones Featured

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Officials at the US Department of Defence have moved to stop the sales of phones made by Chinese telecommunications equipment companies Huawei and ZTE in retail outlets on US military bases, claiming the devices may be a security risk.

The Wall Street Journal  quoted Army Major Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, as saying: "Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department’s personnel, information and mission.

“In light of this information, it was not prudent for the department’s exchanges to continue selling them.”

Eastburn was referring to the sales outlets at or near military bases around the globe that sell to US soldiers or sailors, About 2400 Huawei and ZTE phones were sold at these shops last year.

Contacted for comment, a Huawei spokesperson told iTWire: "Huawei's products are sold in 170 countries worldwide and meet the highest standards of security, privacy and engineering in every country where we operate globally, including the US.

"We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices.

"Huawei is an employee-owned company and will continue to develop its global business through a significant commitment to innovation and R&D as well as to delivering technology that helps our customers succeed."

The Pentagon advice is the latest step that the US has taken against Huawei and ZTE, in an ongoing war against the Chinese companies against the backdrop of a trade dispute between the two countries.

Recent reports said the Justice Department was investigating whether Huawei has violated US sanctions on Iran.

The WSJ said TKS, a subsidiary of Vodafone that runs stores on US bases in Germany, had already stopped selling Huawei phones. “They’ve been removed from our portfolio to comply with guidance from the Army & Air Force Exchange Services,” a TKS spokesman told the newspaper.

Last month, the US Department of Commerce slapped a seven-year ban on ZTE, claiming the company had made false statements during talks in 2016 over a charge of shipping telecommunications gear to Iran and North Korea. Prior to that, ZTE had paid a fine of US$890 million after admitting that it violated a law that controls export of sensitive goods by shipping US telecom equipment to Iran.

As a penalty, US firms have been blocked from selling parts to ZTE for seven years.

Also last month, iTWire  reported that Huawei and ZTE would not receive any subsidies from the Universal Service Fund that the US uses to subsidise equipment bought by rural and small carriers, and Huawei is reportedly cutting back US sales efforts as a result.

The US began its efforts to force Huawei out of local contracts after the 2012 Congressional report alleged the company was a threat to national security.

In December, President Donald Trump signed a bill to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment from nuclear weapons systems in the US Defence Department. And earlier this year, Trump stopped a takeover of US processor maker Qualcomm by Singapore-based Broadcom because of national security concerns; Huawei's ties to Broadcom were mentioned as a concern.

Last year, multinational electronics corporation Best Buy said it would no longer stock the company's smartphones.

This came after AT&T cancelled a deal to start selling Huawei smartphones on its plans and Verizon took the company's devices off its shelves.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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