FCC sets comment deadline for Huawei, ZTE security risks

After the 30-day comment period, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will issue a public notice announcing its final decision. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

The Federal Communications Commission has set a Feb. 3 deadline for comments on the agency’s initial determination that Chinese technology companies Huawei and ZTE pose national security threats.

In a unanimous November vote, the FCC adopted a Report and Order (PDF) barring U.S. service providers from using the government’s $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) to purchase telecommunications equipment or services from companies deemed national security risks, and specifically named Huawei and ZTE as entities covered by the rule.  

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After the 30-day comment period, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will issue a public notice announcing its final decision and designation, along with any related effective date.

Huawei has continuously denied U.S. allegations that the company’s ties to the Chinese government and obligations under Chinese law could force it to comply or act as an apparatus for state-sponsored activities like cyber-attacks or espionage against the U.S.

In December, Huawei filed a lawsuit against the FCC decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, asserting the order is unlawful and that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to make the national security threat designation.

RELATED: Huawei fights FCC USF restrictions with new lawsuit

At the time, Huawei’s lead counsel on the legal action, Glen Nager of Jones Day said the Commission has “no national security expertise or authority.” It added that “the designation is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Chinese law and on unsound, unreliable, and inadmissible accusations and innuendo, not evidence.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai previously said actions were based on evidence on the record, “as well as longstanding concerns from the executive and legislative branches about the national security threats posed by certain foreign communications equipment manufacturers, most particularly Huawei and ZTE.”

Huawei in its lawsuit also argued that federal laws were violated because notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements weren’t observed, and due process protections not afforded. 

It’s unclear if the FCC’s newly announced comment period alleviates some of Huawei’s procedural concern. A Huawei spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

While facing opposition from the U.S. government on a variety of fronts, Huawei and fellow Chinese vendor ZTE continue to push ahead with technology partnerships and public relations efforts.

This week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Huawei Technologies USA VP of Risk management and Partner relations Tim Danks is scheduled to speak at panel sessions, including one on the global economic impact of artificial intelligence.

On Monday, meanwhile, U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm announced it partnered with ZTE to successfully complete a 5G-enabled Voice over New Radio (VoNR) call. The 3GPP-compliant call was performed over the 2.5 GHz band and used a ZTE 5G NR base station and a 5G smartphone test device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF System.

“As a long-term partner of ZTE, Qualcomm Technologies is working with us to promote technical verification and commercialization in the 5G development process,” said Bai Yanmin, general manager of RAN products at ZTE, in a statement. “ZTE has always maintained an industry-leading position in terms of SA networking solution. This successful 5G VoNR call has taken an important step towards the commercial use of seamless native 5G voice experience, and will also strongly support the construction of 5G SA, so as to offer 5G to more service providers, enterprise users and consumers.”

VoNR is seen as an important step on the path to standalone 5G NR, enabling operators to deliver voice services without needing to rely on an LTE anchor or Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Last month Ericsson and partner MediaTek performed a VoNR interoperability test over a 3.5 GHz TDD band using the Swedish vendor’s gear and MediaTek’s commercial Dimensity 1000 chipset.