Wednesday, 27 October 2021 07:38

US bans China Telecom Americas from operating in the country Featured

US bans China Telecom Americas from operating in the country Image by Mashiro Momo from Pixabay

The American Federal Communications Corporation has banned China Telecom (Americas) from operating in the US, claiming it may be a threat to national security.

In a statement, commissioner Brendan Car said the decision was informed by "the views submitted by the Executive Branch agencies with responsibility for national security reviews".

In May 2019, the FCC blocked China Mobile USA from entering the American market, claiming a similar threat. The decision was taken eight years after the company applied for permission to operate mobile services.

China Telecom is one of the top three mobile operators in China, the others being China Mobile and China Unicom.

Carr said Executive Branch agencies had advised there were "substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom Americas' continued access to US telecommunications infrastructure".

"They also stated that China Telecom Americas' operations provide opportunities for Chinese state-sponsored actors to engage in espionage and to steal trade secrets and other confidential business information."

On Monday, in a decision apparently driven by fear that a Chinese mobile company would take over Digicel Pacific, Australia's biggest telco, Telstra announced that, along with the Australian Government, it had acquired Digicel's business in the South Pacific region for US$1.6 billion (A$2.14 billion), plus an additional US$250 million depending on how the business fared over the next three years.

Telstra said the government would pay US$1.33 billion of the price, while the company would contribute US$270 million, own and operate the company and own 100% of the ordinary equity.

Carr's statement said: "Indeed, the FCC's own review found that China Telecom Americas poses significant national security concerns due to its control and ownership by the Chinese Government, including its susceptibility to complying with communist China.s intelligence and cyber security laws that are contrary to the interests of the US.

"Our review also found that China Telecom Americas conduct towards the commission and other agencies lacked candour and trustworthiness."

China's biggest telecommunications equipment vendor, Huawei Technologies, was placed on a US blacklist, the so-called Entity List, in May 2019, preventing the company from importing components from American companies without government approval.

Huawei got around this by buying what it needed from branches of American firms in other countries. The only thing it could not source were the proprietary apps that come with Google's Android mobile operating system. It developed its own operating system, HarmonyOS, using the open-source port of Android as a base.

In May 2020, the US put in place further restrictions to cut off Huawei's supply of semiconductors which it gets made mostly by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

This was done through the Foreign Direct Product Rule that makes it necessary for any company — American or foreign — that sells American products or those made using American technology to require a permit before selling to Huawei.

On top of that, new export control rules were imposed by the US Government in August 2020 and these made it well-nigh impossible for Huawei to obtain the SoCs it needs to build its flagship smartphones.

Carr said the FCC should move quickly to close what he called a loophole in the equipment authorisation process to ensure "that equipment from Huawei and other entities that pose a national security risk will no longer be eligible for FCC approval".

Three Republican senators recently issued a call for blacklisting Honor Device, a low-budget smartphone firm formerly owned by Huawei.

Huawei sold Honor to a consortium of 30 dealers and agents, operating under the name Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, for an unspecified sum in November last year.

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Sam Varghese

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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