Should U.S. Vendors Sell Parts to Huawei?

Author:Fritze, Mike
 
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Huawei has become a poster child for illustrating the growing tensions over China's efforts to control the worldwide 5G technology market. Concerns about China's activities in the overall microelectronics and related advanced technology areas have also been widely covered in the recent news.

An executive order in May 2019 on communication technology and supply chain security placed restrictions on the import of communications tech from a potential adversary. In addition, the Commerce Department put Huawei on the "Entities List," restricting the export of U.S. technology to Huawei without a government license.

But are these policies effective in protecting the United States?

To start, an important distinction needs to be drawn between import and export of communications technology to a potential adversary. Restricting imports and usage of communications tech from an unfriendly nation is a major step in mitigating the significant risks such equipment poses to domestic systems.

Restricting deployment to "non-critical" parts of the network is not enough to mitigate security concerns for 5G systems, contrary to some U.S. allies' claims. Due to the low latency demands of this technology, much more processing will be done near the "edges" of the network than ever before.

This potential blurring between the core and peripheries has help drive U.S. concern expressed over the U.K.'s Jan. 28 decision to allow Huawei equipment to be installed into 35 percent of its non-core network.

Introducing tough restrictions on selling chips and gear to an unfriendly nation is another matter altogether. Blocking exports can have a negative impact on the business interests of the U.S. electronics industrial base. Some U.S. firms have argued that Huawei is one of their biggest customers and that an export ban can be detrimental to business.

The commercial electronics industrial base is an...

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