Home Security US politicians push AT&T to cut Huawei ties: report

US politicians push AT&T to cut Huawei ties: report

American politicians are bringing pressure to bear on telecommunications giant AT&T to cut commercial ties with Chinese telco Huawei Technologies and to oppose a bid by telecommunications operator China Mobile to enter the US market due to alleged national security concerns.

Reuters reported that American companies were being told that it would be more difficult for them to obtain government business if they had ties to Huawei or China Mobile.

China Mobile applied for a licence to do business in the US in 2011 and the application is still with the US Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T cancelled a deal earlier this month to offer Huawei handsets to its customers on its mobile plans.

At the time, 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.

Both senators and House members want AT&T to stop collaborating with Huawei on standards for 5G. They are also seeking an end to the use of Huawei handsets by AT&T's discount branch Cricket, Reuters said quoting Congressional aides.

The news agency quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang as saying he did not know anything about the matter, but hoped that China would be given a fair operating environment in other countries.

“We hope that China and the US can work hard together to maintain the healthy and stable development of trade and business ties. This accords with the joint interests of both,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

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.

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 Australia's 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.

iTWire has contacted Huawei for comment.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.