News brief: FCC extends ban on Huawei and ZTE sales in US

Ray Le Maistre
By Ray Le Maistre

Nov 28, 2022

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

  • US regulator has extended its restrictions on the sale of equipment from Huawei, ZTE and others
  • Now even private network operators in the US can’t use the Chinese vendors’ tech

US telecom regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has extended restrictions on the sale of technology from Chinese companies, including Huawei and ZTE, so that even private companies that are not using government funds will be unable to source products from companies deemed to be a threat to US national security. 

“While we’ve flagged equipment as posing a national security risk, prohibited companies from using federal funds to purchase them, and even stood up programs to replace them, for the last several years the FCC has continued to put its stamp of approval on this equipment through its equipment authorisation process,” noted FCC chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel (pictured above) in an announcement issued late last Friday. 

“So long as this equipment carries that stamp, it can continue to be imported into the United States and sold to buyers who are not using federal funds. But that does not make any sense. After all, there is little benefit in having these lists and these bans in place just to leave open other opportunities for this equipment to be present in our networks.  So today we are taking action to align our equipment authorisation procedures with the rest of our national security policies,” continued the FCC chief.  

“Specifically, under the rules we adopt today pursuant to the Secure Equipment Act, the FCC will no longer authorise equipment that is on the Covered List because it poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the safety of United States persons. That includes telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from Huawei and ZTE.  It also includes telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua that is used for the purpose of public safety, security of government facilities, physical surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes.  For these three companies, we will require them to document what safeguards they will put in place on marketing or sale for these purposes and we are putting in place a freeze on all of their telecommunications and video surveillance equipment authorisation applications until that work is done. The action we take today covers base station equipment that goes into our networks.  It covers phones, cameras, and Wi-Fi routers that go into our homes. And it covers re-branded or ‘white label’ equipment that is developed for the marketplace. In other words, this approach is comprehensive,” concluded Rosenworcel, who added that the FCC is also inviting “additional comment on the need to update our equipment approval process to address component parts.” 

You can be sure there will be some submissions.  

The move marks the latest step to rid the US of technology supplied by Huawei in particular, which became a global telecom infrastructure superpower over the course of the past 20 years and is still by far the largest single supplier of telecom networking gear to operators around the world (though much of that business is in China) - see $100 billion telecom equipment market grew 7% in 2021: Report.

In March 2021, the FCC published a list of technology and services that were deemed to “pose an unacceptable risk to national security as required under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act”, which included products from Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua. It then launched the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program to “remove untrusted equipment from our networks and replace them with secure alternatives,” a scheme that has proven to be more costly and problematic than the FCC first envisaged – see US ‘rip and replace’ program costs soar to $5.6 billion.

The move to tighten restrictions in the US comes only days after a Politico report suggested Huawei has been retrenching in Europe following the impact of US trade sanctions and political pressures in the region – see News brief: Huawei “retrenching” in Europe.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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