China's Huawei calls for hearings at the FTC

cell phone tower (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)
China's Huawei wants to retain its U.S. business. (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)

Chinese wireless network equipment provider Huawei called for the Federal Trade Commission to conduct hearings this fall on whether the company should be allowed to compete in the U.S. telecommunications market. The news comes amid ongoing concerns that the Chinese vendor poses a threat to the United States’ national security.

Specifically, Huawei is moving against an attempt by the FCC to block sales of its equipment to U.S. telecom operators that receive government funding. The FCC embarked on a proposal to tacitly block any network operator—big and small—from using Universal Service Funds to purchase equipment from companies that pose a security threat. That proceeding at the FCC is widely seen as an attempt by the U.S. government to block Chinese network equipment vendors Huawei from competing in the market.

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Of course, the FCC is proceeding is the latest in a long line of setbacks for China's Huawei in the U.S. market. Huawei and ZTE were singled out in a 2012 government report warning that equipment from the two Chinese companies could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. More recently, both AT&T and Verizon reportedly dropped plans to sell smartphones from Huawei.

Interestingly, the Australian government recently moved to block Huawei from supplying 5G equipment in the country.

Although Huawei has pulled back from the U.S. market as a result, the company continues to supply wireless network equipment to a variety of smaller rural wireless network operators in the United States including SI Wireless, Viaero, NE Colorado Cellular and United Telephone Association.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Here are the U.S. wireless carriers currently using Huawei equipment

Research firm Dell'Oro group recently found that Huawei is the nation's fourth largest Radio Access Network equipment supplier in the United States, behind the likes of Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.

And it appears that Huawei is keen to retain this business. The company is asking the FTC to hold hearings on whether it can continue to supply equipment into the U.S. market.

“The FTC’s upcoming hearings are an appropriate forum to address legislative and administrative actions that negatively impact competition in U.S. telecommunications markets,” Huawei wrote in a lengthy filing, outlining the evidence of the U.S. government's efforts to block the company's business in the United States. “While Huawei submits that such concerns are unfounded, the FTC is uniquely positioned to help assess the likelihood and scope of such harm, and to lend its expertise to policymakers.”

Added Huawei: “The occasion of the FTC’s hearings on competition and consumer protection in the 21st century provide an opportunity for the FTC to address impending unreasonable restrictions to competition and harm to consumers in the telecommunications industry. Given its longstanding history as an advocate of competition, the FTC is uniquely positioned to help prevent proposed restrictive regulations that would unnecessarily limit consumer choice and create market inefficiencies.”

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