Sprint talks devices with Huawei while U.S. carriers ignore the Honor 9

Huawei (Flickr)
Huawei has no plans to launch its latest phone in the U.S., but it recently met with Sprint to discuss devices.

Huawei is once again getting precious little support from U.S. carriers for a new handset, but Sprint and the Chinese vendor recently met to talk devices.

Android Central reported this week that while Huawei’s Honor 9 will come to market in Europe later this summer, the company has no designs on selling it through U.S. carriers yet. An American release for the latest Honor phone is “not planned at this moment,” Huawei executive Eva Wimmers told the news outlet.

That isn’t unusual despite the phone’s high-end specs and features, and despite Huawei’s standing as one of the largest smartphone vendors in the world. The phone’s predecessor, the Honor 8, got a similarly chilly reception among U.S. carriers when it launched last year in spite of a major press event hosted by Huawei in San Francisco to introduce that device.

But Sprint recently met with the Chinese company to discuss hardware, as evidenced by this tweet last week from Guenther Ottendorfer, the carrier’s COO of technology.

When asked by FierceWireless about Ottendorfer’s tweet, a Sprint representative said it “was in reference to mobile device development only” rather than any kind of network technology.

“We regularly interact with all of the major global handset providers as part of our effort to build our device portfolio and roadmap,” Adrienne Norton of Sprint said via email. “This includes Huawei, which has an extremely successful high-end handset business worldwide.”

Norton declined to say whether the device—or devices—in question might include a smartphone, tablet or other kind of hardware.

Of course, Sprint and Huawei have a little bit of history together. Sprint was the only major U.S. operator selling any Huawei phones when the Honor 8 was introduced last year, although no Huawei handsets are listed on the carrier’s site currently. And the carrier inherited Huawei network gear when it acquired Clearwire’s network several years ago, although Sprint said none of that equipment is in use on its network today.

Huawei and its fellow China-based vendor ZTE were called out in a 2012 U.S. government report as security threats that could be used as backdoors for Chinese espionage. The companies refuted any such allegations, but Huawei has since essentially been locked out of major network infrastructure contracts with telecom operators such Verizon, Sprint and others.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported in April that a previously unreported subpoena was sent to Huawei in December by the U.S. Treasury Department, signaling an expansion of an earlier probe into the company’s dealings. The administrative document doesn’t indicate Huawei is under criminal investigation, according to the Times, but it suggests the company might be suspected of violating American embargoes.

Huawei denied any wrongdoing, the Times reported, saying it “has adhered to international conventions and all applicable laws and regulations” in the markets in which it does business.

Huawei may still be under the microscope of federal officials, although the status of any ongoing probe is unknown. Regardless, Sprint is moving as aggressively as it can to roll out its 2.5 GHz spectrum to increase capacity and deliver faster speeds to customers. If Huawei can help it do that, it may be able to inch its way into the U.S. device market.

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