Tuesday, 09 January 2018 09:41

AT&T backs out of deal with Huawei: report Featured

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American telecommunications giant AT&T has reportedly backed out of a deal to offer Huawei smartphones on its plans.

The Wall Street Journal cited "people familiar with the matter" in a report where it said Huawei had been expected to announce the deal at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Had the deal been announced, it would have been Huawei's first with a major US mobile vendor. Though it is the third-ranked mobile brand globally — behind Samsung and Apple — Huawei has been more or less blocked from the US market.

Back in 2012, the US Congress issued a report that raised concerns about state-sponsored spying related to products made by Huawei, the biggest global maker of telecommunications equipment. The company has denied any such involvement.

In Australia, nearly six years ago, Huawei was denied any role in supplying equipment to the country's national broadband network project, following advice by ASIS, one of the spy agencies.

Last year, Australia put pressure on the Solomon Islands to drop Huawei as the main contractor for an undersea cable project.

The Project Honiara undersea cable project is expected to improve the capacity of the local telco, Our Telekom, to handle domestic and international calls.

In December, Britain's Financial Times newspaper reported that Canberra would block the deal with Huawei and instead pay the $100 million cost itself.

The director-general of ASIS, Nick Warner, spoke to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare about the undersea cable deal soon after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis visited Australia in mid-June. ASIS or the Australian Secret Intelligence Service is Australia's foreign intelligence agency.

The WSJ report said that there was no clear indication as to why AT&T had changed its plans, with the company unwilling to make any comment. When Huawei was asked about it, a spokesman only said, "Huawei has proven itself by delivering premium devices with integrity globally and in the US market."

Smartphones made by Huawei are available in the US from online retailers and some stores, but no big mobile carrier offers the devices on plans.

iTWire has contacted Huawei for comment.

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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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