Exclusive: Some big tech firms cut employees’ access to Huawei, muddying 5G rollout

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some of the world’s biggest tech companies have told their employees to stop talking about technology and technical standards with counterparts at Huawei Technologies Co Ltd in response to the recent U.S. blacklisting of the Chinese tech firm, according to people familiar with the matter.

A Huawei company logo is seen at Huawei’s Shanghai Research Center in Shanghai, China May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

Chipmakers Intel Corp and Qualcomm Inc, mobile research firm InterDigital Wireless Inc and South Korean carrier LG Uplus have restricted employees from informal conversations with Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, the sources said.

Such discussions are a routine part of international meetings where engineers gather to set technical standards for communications technologies, including the next generation of mobile networks known as 5G.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has not banned contact between companies and Huawei. On May 16, the agency put Huawei on a blacklist, barring it from doing business with U.S. companies without government approval, then a few days later it authorized U.S. companies to interact with Huawei in standards bodies through August “as necessary for the development of 5G standards.” The Commerce Department reiterated that position on Friday in response to a question from Reuters.

Nevertheless, at least a handful of major U.S. and overseas tech companies are telling their employees to limit some forms of direct interaction, the people said, as they seek to avoid any potential issues with the U.S. government.

Intel and Qualcomm said they have provided compliance instructions to employees, but declined to comment on them further.

A spokesman for InterDigital said it has provided guidance to engineers to ensure the company is in compliance with U.S. regulations.

An official with LG Uplus said the company is “voluntarily refraining from interacting with Huawei workers, other than meeting for network equipment installation or maintenance issues.”

LG Uplus issued a statement to Reuters that there was no formal policy within the firm about limiting conversations with Huawei.

Huawei did not provide comment.

5G SLOWDOWN

The new restrictions could slow the rollout of 5G, which is expected to power everything from high-speed video transmissions to self-driving cars, according to several industry experts.

At a 5G standards meeting last week in Newport Beach, California, participants privately expressed alarm to Reuters that the long-standing cooperation among engineers that is needed for phones and networks to connect globally could fall victim to what one participant described as a “tech war” between the United States and China.

A representative of a European company that has instituted rules against interaction with Huawei described people involved in 5G development as “shaken”. “This could push everyone to their own corners, and we need cooperation to get to 5G. It should be a global market,” the person said.

To be sure, several workers at smaller telecoms firms said they had not been told to avoid discussions with Huawei at standards meetings, and many vendors continue to support existing deals with Huawei. It is unclear how much further communications with Huawei have been curtailed in the tech industry, if at all.

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding from what I’m seeing and hearing from clients and colleagues, as far as what the (Commerce Department) restrictions actually entail,” said Doug Jacobson, a Washington-based export controls lawyer.

He said that companies prohibiting their employees contacting Huawei was “excessive, because the restrictions don’t preclude communication, only the transfer of technology.”

Huawei, whose equipment the United States has alleged could be used by China to spy, has emerged as a central figure in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

China, U.S, and European companies have split before on standards for Wi-Fi, cell networks and other technologies, and the tit-for-tat over tariffs between Beijing and Washington has increased fears of another bifurcation.

Huawei is a top player at various global organizations that set technical specifications. As one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of devices like smartphones, and the vital parts of networks such as routers and switches, Huawei will need to be at the standards-setting table to ensure a seamless customer experience when 5G networks become prevalent, engineers and experts said.

NO MORE INFORMAL CHATS

Engineers and system architects representing their employers at meetings of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a global consortium of industry associations that aims to set 5G specifications by March 2020, often take formal, general discussions into smaller, less documented sessions as they try to find agreement with rivals.

But at 3GPP’s meeting last week in California, one of the group’s three chairmen, Balazs Bertenyi of Nokia, told attendees that more of those so-called “offline” conversations than usual would be documented by the standards body with notes and other publicly available records.

It was the “practical implication” of the new U.S. Commerce Department rules given industry-wide caution despite the exemption for 5G talks, he said.

Companies want to limit informal exchanges, in which their engineers feel more comfortable discussing proprietary technology with rivals to persuade them why their research or innovations are more sound, the sources said.

A separate standards body, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), put restrictions on Huawei engineers’ ability to participate in peer reviews for its publications, drawing criticism from some in China’s industry and elsewhere.

The organization, which declined to comment beyond generic statements on its website, then backtracked days later after saying it had received the all-clear from the U.S. Commerce Department with respect to the peer review issue. It did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

“Huawei isn’t just some company. They, by many accounts, are the leader in 5G technology. Excluding them is very hard to work around, so it does stand to disrupt the entire project,” said Jorge Contreras, a law professor at the University of Utah and an IEEE member.

“If the idea is to create a non-Chinese 5G, I’m not sure that’s possible. Even if it is, would it be as good?”

Reporting by Paresh Dave in Newport Beach, California and Chris Prentice in New York; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul; Editing by Chris Sanders and Bill Rigby

Source link

more recommended stories

  • Apple says it collects fee on less than 1% of Spotify users

    (Reuters) – Music streaming service Spotify.

  • HSBC-backed startup aims to become LinkedIn of global trade

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – In a.

  • U.S. explores requiring domestic 5G equipment to be made outside China: WSJ

    Sprint technicians work on the installation.

  • India’s space startups ignite investor interest

    MUMBAI (Reuters) – From companies building.

  • Velodyne Lidar hires bankers for an IPO: Business Insider

    A Velodyne LiDAR sensor is seen.

  • India asks scooter, bike makers to draw up plan for EVs: sources

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s federal.

  • Amazon gets U.S. patent to use delivery drones for surveillance service

    FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon.

  • Senate Democrats ask for details on antitrust probes into Big Tech

    FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon,.

  • Dollars in the detail: banks pan for gold in ‘data lakes’

    LONDON (Reuters) – From sending special.

  • Slack stock surges at debut, values company at more than $23 billion

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Shares of.

  • Chainalysis, LINE unit BITBOX in anti-money laundering partnership

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chainalysis, a.

  • Delta Air not expecting flight cancellations as result of tech issue

    FILE PHOTO – Passengers check in.

  • Apple explores moving 15-30% of production capacity from China: Nikkei

    (Reuters) – Apple Inc has asked.

  • French photo startup Meero joins unicorn club after $230 mln fundraising

    PARIS (Reuters) – French startup Meero,.

  • Facebook reveals Libra cryptocurrency, sparking new privacy concerns

    SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Facebook.

  • Facebook reveals Libra cryptocurrency, with lofty goals

    SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Facebook.

  • Huawei says U.S. ban hurting more than expected, to wipe $30 billion off revenue

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s Huawei.

  • France warns new European drone must be competitive on price

    French President Emmanuel Macron, listens to.

  • Google appoints Stanley Chen to head Greater China sales, operations

    FILE PHOTO: The brand logo of.

  • Intel launches project to help Israeli tech start-ups

    Intel CEO Robert Swan speaks during.

  • Exclusive: Mexico blamed Walmart’s size, access to rivals’ data in blocking app deal

    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican officials.

  • Bumble owner to spend $100 million on dating apps

    (Reuters) – The owner of dating.

  • Broadcom’s $2 billion warning rattles global chip sector

    LONDON/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Broadcom Inc sent.

  • Explainer: Why is Huawei seeking $1 billion patent deal with Verizon?

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Huawei is demanding.

  • Factbox: Global tech companies shun Huawei after U.S. ban

    (Reuters) – Global technology companies are.

  • Broadcom warning hits European chipmakers

    FILE PHOTO: Broadcom Limited company logo.

  • Unhappy at Twitter, thousands of Saudis crash pro-Trump social network

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A surge.

  • Messaging service Telegram CEO points to China as likely origin of cyber attack

    (Reuters) – The chief executive of.

  • Walmart overhauls Jet.com as online business fails to deliver results

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Walmart Inc on.

  • Facebook expands Watch service as user numbers grow

    FILE PHOTO: Stickers bearing the Facebook.

  • LG Electronics, regulators oppose Qualcomm’s effort to put antitrust ruling on hold

    (Reuters) – Smartphone maker LG Electronics.

  • Capgemini expands with technology venture capital fund

    FILE PHOTO: The logo of Capgemini.