Huawei pushes back after U.S. blocks public-safety network bid

Chinese vendor Huawei is pushing back more forcefully than ever before after the U.S. Commerce Department decided to block the company from participating in the construction of a nationwide interoperable public-safety LTE network.

Worried about unspecified national security concerns, the Commerce Department stated last week that Huawei would be kept out of the network. Now, Huawei is pushing the U.S. government to specifically detail its concerns. "Stop the manufactured fear. If you have something to say, substantiate it," William Plummer, Huawei's Washington-based vice president of external affairs, told the Financial Times.

"This was a national security decision about a public-safety network," an unnamed Commerce Department official told IDG News Service on Thursday. "The specific concerns won't be elaborated on, because we don't conduct national security analyses in public."

For Huawei, the latest setback came after the company had been striving to be more open and transparent and allay concerns that it has ties to the Chinese government and military, concerns it calls unfounded. In an extensive open letter posted in February on the company's website, Ken Hu, Huawei's deputy chairman, directly addressed questions over Huawei's ties to the Chinese government and military, which some U.S. politicians raised last year. Hu wrote that claims Huawei receives financial support from the Chinese government or has ties to the Chinese military are "falsehoods" that "have had significant and negative impact on our business activity."

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) reportedly decided last year to block both Huawei and ZTE from getting its multi-billion-dollar Network Vision network modernization project because of mounting national security concerns from lawmakers and pressure from the Commerce Department. The concerns center on worries that Huawei's chips, routers and other equipment that could be bugged to give China's government access to sensitive information.

In the meantime, Huawei has tried to get access to the U.S. market through its device business, which is increasingly finding favor with Tier 1 carriers like AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA. Still, Plummer underscored Huawei's irritation with a lack of clarity from the U.S. government.

"We have seen multiple instances where we are being asked for transparency," he said. "Well, the shoe is on the other foot. We would like to see some accountability and transparency associated with this decision. Where is the due process?"

For more:
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)
- see this IDG News Service article

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