Back in 2012, U.S. lawmakers began to work to prevent American wireless carriers from buying equipment from Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company. The U.S. government was concerned about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government and worried that equipment from both companies could eventually be a national security threat if it was deployed across the United States.
Those ties to the Chinese military begin with the CEO. Huawei’s founder, billionaire Ren Zhengfei, was an engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army before he left the service in 1983 and started Huawei four years later. Huawei has always denied its equipment is any more vulnerable to spying than that provided by other companies.
Most recently, AT&T abandoned its plans to launch a Huawei flagship smartphone in the U.S. in January. The Information news site reported at the time that AT&T canceled the launch after the House and Senate Intelligence committees raised concerns over the partnership.
The U.S. isn’t the only country worried about Huawei’s potential ability to use its hardware for spying. Australia has banned its wireless carriers from using Huawei equipment for new 5G networks. The U.K.’s spy chief also raised concerns about Huawei earlier this week.
Finally, earlier this year the FBI, CIA and NSA warned U.S. consumers to avoid buying phones built by Huawei and its sub-brand “Honor” that were sold through retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon.
“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in February.
“That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure,” Wray said. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.