The Global Telecommunications Network is Bigger than America and Huawei.


By Catherine Chen, Director of the Board at Huawei

In May President Trump signed an executive order that laid the groundwork for a ban on Huawei. Immediately following the executive order, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross issued an order requiring Huawei to get U.S. government approval before buying technology from American businesses. Both of these decisions were made without fully considering the consequences. 

The Trump Admiration and Department of Commerce may believe they were acting in the best interest of their nation. And while the orders intended to make it more challenging for Huawei to operate, they will have an unintended effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans. Many U.S. companies do business with Huawei - the company buys over $11 billion in goods and services from U.S. companies every year. These orders could eliminate 40,000 – 50,000 jobs, impacting so many American families. It will also affect Americans who don’t use Huawei devices and technology at all, as it decreases competition and can lead to higher prices and less innovation. 

The extent to which Huawei is already ingrained in American society goes far beyond doing business. Huawei equipment is installed in many 4G networks that serve remote and rural parts of the country. A ban prevents operators like Eastern Oregon Telecom and Union Wireless in Wyoming from developing new services and delivering faster broadband connections to millions of people that could otherwise be left behind. Forcing those operators to replace Huawei equipment will not only cost them millions of dollars, it won’t even help American companies; Ericsson and Nokia, the two biggest Huawei competitors, as they are also both based outside the U.S. 

Blocking the acknowledged leader in 5G technology from doing business in the U.S. will only hinder the U.S. from rolling out 5G networks at the same time as the rest of the world. America is known as the world’s leading, most innovative nation, but it may fall behind the many European and Asian countries that plan to use Huawei technology to introduce 5G on a large scale. Huawei’s technology will give them an advantage over the United States, helping them to take the lead in delivering better technology and faster network speeds to their citizens. Perhaps the next Uber or Netflix will be created outside the U.S. in countries that are early adopters of 5G.

Untangling Huawei from the U.S. entirely will not only take years and cost tens of millions of dollars, it may not even achieve its intended goal. Banning Huawei does not in itself ensure the security of the country’s digital networks. 

American officials believe that Huawei is a gateway to giving the Chinese government control over its networks and data. But banning Huawei doesn’t secure all networks. Conversely, the security of telecommunications networks is the responsibility of all operators, equipment vendors and service providers to collectively agree to perform risk mitigation with both assurance and transparency.

When it comes to data, Huawei simply doesn’t have access to it. Huawei does not own or operate networks in the U.S. – nor have access to these networks in the U.S. Huawei supplies products to carriers and service providers who build, own and operate the networks and control the data passing through them.

Some have come to the conclusion that Huawei was targeted because it is headquartered in China. If that were the case, it would make little sense. Both Nokia and Ericsson draw from the same global supply chain as Huawei, use equipment that was developed or manufactured in China, and have close business relationships with Chinese state-owned enterprises. Together, these companies account for much of the telecommunications infrastructure throughout the United States. Singling out one company does nothing to reduce the risk in the global supply chain, it will only reduce competition and inevitably increase costs. 

If the U.S. government truly wants to prevent malicious actors from monitoring network traffic or launching a cyberattack, it must address the bigger picture. The world’s communications networks are all vulnerable to attack by malicious nation-states, and attacks can take place through the products of any equipment vendor. The only way to truly ensure security is to implement a mutually agreed upon system of assurance and transparency in risk mitigation across the board.