Huawei and ZTE officially designated national security threats by FCC

The Chinese tech giants are risks to America's 5G future, says the chair of the US Federal Communications Commission.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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The US Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday its final decision to classify Huawei and ZTE as national security threats. The official designation came from the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. It means the commission's $8.3 billion a year universal service fund can't be used to purchase or maintain equipment from the two Chinese tech giants, in a bid to provide security protection for US communications networks.

The decision comes after the FCC in November 2019 adopted a ban on the use of this fund for Huawei and ZTE -- Tuesday's order by the bureau is a final designation taking into account all evidence from the US government.

"Based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, the Bureau has designated Huawei and ZTE as national security risks to America's communications networks and to our 5G future," said Ajit Pai, FCC chair. "Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China's military apparatus."

Read moreHuawei ban timeline: Trump administration says company is backed by Chinese military

Last week, the Trump administration announced its finding that Huawei is backed by the Chinese military. The Pentagon sent a document to Congress containing the names of 20 Chinese companies that it found to be backed by the People's Liberation Army, including Huawei.

"As the People's Republic of China attempts to blur the lines between civil and military sectors, 'knowing your supplier' is critical," Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said in an emailed statement. "This list will be a useful tool for the US government, companies, investors, academic institutions and like-minded partners to conduct due diligence with regard to partnerships with these entities."

In February, the FCC began collecting data from US carriers that are using network gear from Huawei and ZTE, to help it reimburse smaller and rural carriers for those costs. US President Donald Trump signed legislation in March that stops carriers from using government funds to buy network equipment from Huawei and ZTE

Huawei was blacklisted by the United States in May 2019 when it was added to the US' "entity list" (PDF). Trump at the same time signed an executive order essentially banning the company in light of national security concerns that Huawei had close ties with the Chinese government. Huawei has repeatedly denied that charge.

Huawei and ZTE didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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