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Huawei Bans and what it means for UK Businesses

Posted on 4th June 2019

Last week, following an executive order by Donald Trump baring trade with foreign telecoms companies, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security added Huawei to its 'entity list' [1] [3]. Restricting it from selling equipment in the U.S. and from doing business with American companies [2].

Huawei are the second-largest smartphone manufacturer, [5] offering premium features similar to flagship Apple or Samsung devices.

The controversial decision comes from U.S. intelligence which believes that the Chinese-based company could be required to secretly implement 'back-doors', allowing their home governments to spy on device owners. [4]

Politics aside – Should you continue to buy Huawei products? As a Brit, does it matter?

A one-time 90-day window has been granted to some companies to continue trade until other arrangements can be made [8].

Once that window is up, we've put together a quick list on what might be affected on Huawei phones:

  • Android — The open source mobile operating system that most Huawei phones use. Huawei, as with most manufacturers, license the software directly from Google to receive the latest software and patches. They are now likely to 'fork' the open-source version to provide a similar experience to users.
  • Email — You may be unable to pick up your work emails on your phone. The Microsoft Exchange protocol is currently licensed from the American software giant.
  • Calendar, Contacts, Notes — Again, unless your email platform uses open protocols such as IMAP or CalDAV, you could be missing out.
  • Apps — The Google Play store and other most popular marketplaces (such as Amazon Appstore) may not be allow to trade. If Huawei introduce their own App store, American developers may not be allowed to sell on their platform.
  • Performance — Intel will not be allowed to sell their processors. ARM is unable to license it processor designs due to "US origin technology" it holds. The CPU market is difficult, ARM and Intel dominant the mobile compute landscape [6].

Last month the British National Security Council limited Huawei to supply only 'non-core' 5G infrastructure [7]. It's not yet clear if Vodafone or EE, who are launching their modern 5G networks will be affected.

The outlook for Huawei is very uncertain at the moment, and although there is no explicit instruction from the UK government, we would have to advise holding off on your purchase of Huawei devices – at least until the 90-day grace is up and the full impact can be reviewed.

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-48289550
[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-15/trump-signs-order-that-could-limit-chinese-telecom-sales-in-u-s
[3] https://www.whitecase.com/publications/alert/us-designates-huawei-entity-list-issues-temporary-general-license
[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48276822
[5] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-huawei-tech-usa-data/huawei-holds-on-to-no-2-smartphone-spot-in-first-quarter-report-idUSKCN1SY1BG
[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48363772
[7] https://www.gsmarena.com/uk_to_allow_huawei_limited_access_in_noncore_5g_components-news-36730.php
[8] https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/05/google-and-huawei-can-support-devices-for-90-days-thanks-to-us-ban-exemption/