Huawei: "We welcome being poked, prodded and probed". US Government: "OK then. Nurse, the screens, the lubricant and the rubber gloves please".

May 28, 2013

Clearwire, which is majority-owned by Sprint Nextel, is deploying an LTE network in the US. Sprint is subject to an acquisition bid made by SoftBank of Japan. It is offering US$20 billion for 70 per cent of Sprint. SoftBank's bid requires US federal approval if it is to go forward. The US government is worried that Huawei equipment can be (and is being) used to eavesdrop on and divert American data to shadowy agencies in the People's Republic of China.

Thus it would oil the wheels of commerce and possibly help ease the deal through the US regulatory maze were the Huawei equipment to be stripped out of the Clearwire network. This will be a very expensive process but Clearwire will do it to help ensure that the SoftBank deal goes through. Hence the statement from Clearwire's founder and CTO, John Saw, that "We are materially reducing their [Huawei's] footprint in our LTE network".

Dr. Saw says that while Clearwire's Huawei equipment consists only of base stations at the network edge (the the core comprising of Ciena and Cisco kit), like the federal authorities he thinks that the even the edge is too close for comfort where Huawei is concerned.

In recent months, Huawei's opponents in the US government and its agencies have increasingly attacked the company's antecedents, alleged secret objectives and the strategies and tactics it employs to achieve them, forcing the Chinese company repeatedly to defend itself and deny that its equipment can be used to spy on US interests or facilitate massive cyber attacks.

Meanwhile, Mr Suffolk maintains that there is "little difference" between Huawei equipment and that supplied by any other vendor. He added that the component parts for Huawei kit are sourced from around the world.

He said, "Seventy per cent of of hardware found in Huawei equipment comes from outside China while 32 per cent of it comes from American suppliers. It's the same with software." Mr. Suffolk also claimed that there are many countries around the world [other than the PRC] where any comms product could be "compromised".

Mr. Suffolk also blamed customers in general, and governments and major corporations in particular, for failing to be sufficiently proactive and rigorous in specifying exactly what they want from equipment vendors. He said, “If you, as governments or large enterprises, don't say to your vendors 'this is what good security looks like', then don't expect the vendors to do anything about it."

John Suffolk adds that “We [Huawei] welcome being audited, inspected, poked and prodded and probed".

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