Amerilink Telecom, the new startup that is helping shepherd Chinese vendor Huawei into the wider U.S. market, added two new dignitaries to its board.
Amerilink added former Rep. Richard Gephardt and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn to its board of directors in recent months, according to the Wall Streeet Journal, a move that the firm hopes could help Huawei win a major new infrastructure deal from Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S).
Adding the new directors is "very important in terms of the trust factor," Amerilink founder and Chairman William Owens told the Journal. Owens is a former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and former CEO of Nortel. Amerilink describes itself as a company that that is "uniquely positioned to be a 21st century technology solutions provider that can effectively facilitate the introduction of new technology and entrants into the North American data and telecommunications market." Huawei is using the firm to help address U.S. regulators' national security concerns.
The Journal reported that Huawei and Amerilink have made a joint bid for the contract with Sprint. The Financial Times first reported the possible Huawei-Sprint deal in July. Sprint CFO Bob Brust said last week that the company evaluating final bids from six vendors on a massive network modernization project, but the company has declined to name any bidders.
Amerilink is based in Sprint's hometown of Overland Park, Kan., and is staffed by several former Sprint employees. Kevin Packingham, who left Sprint in August after serving as the carrier's senior vice president of product and technology development, is Amerilink's CEO. The company, which said it has other, unnamed clients beyond Huawei, has stepped up its lobbying efforts on Huawei's behalf recently, according to the Journal.
In August, a group of Republican senators said that a potential deal between Sprint and Huawei would compromise national security. The senators expressed concern about possible ties between the Chinese firm and the Iranian government and the Chinese military. Huawei strongly denies these claims.
Last week, Huawei unveiled a three-pronged security strategy aimed at blunting these concerns. The plan includes establishing a national security committee headed by Huawei CTO Matt Bross, using an accredited independent test lab to check Huawei's proprietary software, and ensuring trusted delivery of all products by using U.S. citizens to deliver product in the U.S.
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