The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted unanimously to advance a proposed ban on approvals on the use of Huawei and ZTE’s equipment in American telecoms infrastructure.
Chinese vendors have largely been excluded from the US market due to ongoing concerns about security, with major carriers opting to use radio equipment from Ericsson, Nokia and others.
However, a number of smaller providers use kit from Huawei and ZTE because it is relatively inexpensive. The Rural Wireless Association, which represents operators with fewer than 100,000 customers, estimates a quarter of its members have Chinese-made kit in their networks.
The US government and the FCC have both taken steps to restrict both companies’ activities in the country. Federal agencies have long been banned from using equipment from Huawei and ZTE while last November both were declared to be national security risks.
US operators that are customers of either are now required to remove and replace affected equipment in their networks, with a multi-billion-dollar compensation fund established to compensate operators for the expense involved.
This latest tightening of the screw will see the FCC close what it considers to be a loophole that allows Huawei equipment to be used if operators are granted approval. The FCC says it has received 3,000 approval requests from Huawei since 2018 and under the terms of the plan, past approvals could be revoked.
The move has been criticised by the Chinese government which considers the action to be politically motivated, while Huawei has persistently denied any allegations of wrongdoing. Washington is also yet to supply any evidence to support its claims.
Separately, Huawei is also banned from dealing with US suppliers without a licence, severely limiting its access to key technologies such as chips and the Android operating system. Recently, there were moves to make the licence system even more restrictive.