The US Department of Commerce has created a 90-day temporary general licence (TGL) that restores licensing requirements and policies under its export administration regulations to a number of businesses banned from the US under an executive order last week, in effect enabling Chinese networking supplier Huawei to continue maintaining its existing business until mid-August 2019.
The temporary stay enables Huawei to engage in any transactions “necessary to maintain and support existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, including software updates and patches”.
It also allows Huawei to provide support to its smartphone customers, gives it access to relevant security vulnerability disclosures, and allows international standards bodies such as the IEEE and the GSMA to engage with it, as necessary, over the development of 5G mobile network standards.
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said: “The TGL grants operators time to make other arrangements and the department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services.”
This follows an executive order signed by US president Donald Trump that effectively enacted a total ban on any Huawei activities in the US. This, in turn, prompted Google to expel Huawei from the Android mobile operating system (OS) ecosystem.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which conducts substantial, in-depth reporting on potential network security threats emanating from Huawei, said it was assessing the implications of the TGL, and in the meantime had published guidance for users of Huawei smartphones on its website.
“Customers should continue to update their devices as normal, in line with existing NCSC advice,” said a spokesperson for the organisation. “Our advice will be updated if we become aware of any security concerns.”
Based on currently available information – allegedly leaked by former defence secretary Gavin Williamson – the UK government is likely to take the position that UK operators will be permitted to use Huawei equipment in non-core parts of their future 5G networks.
It is not yet known how, or if, the latest developments in the long-running affair over Huawei’s ability and willingness to act as an agent for the Chinese intelligence services will affect any decision that Westminster has taken, or will take.
Meanwhile, Huawei’s leadership has ramped up its rhetoric in response to the actions taken by the US. In statements reported by the BBC, company founder Ren Zhengfei said that the US “underestimates our strength”.
Recent developments in the Huawei affair
- Google decision to exclude Huawei from the Android ecosystem follows an executive order signed by president Trump, but Huawei insists US businesses and consumers will be the real losers.
- The Trump administration’s move to effectively ban Huawei products from US networks has big implications for IT execs in charge of supply chain sourcing and security.
- US president Donald Trump has announced a ban on telecoms equipment from designated “adversary” states, including China.
- The sacking of defence minister Gavin Williamson is another indication of how technology is influencing politics, and vice versa.
- Defence secretary Gavin Williamson has been sacked after leaking confidential discussions over the use of Huawei networking equipment.
- Why worry over Huawei? A US ban of this Chinese company’s products should remind CISOs that now is the time to consider security issues related to the roll-out of the 5G network.
- Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill has instituted an inquiry aimed at discovering who leaked confidential discussions about UK mobile operators’ use of Huawei in their future 5G networks to the press.
- Culture secretary tells MPs that a final decision on use of Huawei in UK 5G networks has not been taken, and says government is taking the leak of confidential discussions at the National Security Council very seriously.
- The Cabinet Office has used an NCSC conference to lay out government’s approach to the security of 5G networks, as controversy grows around using equipment from Huawei.
- The UK’s National Security Council has approved the use of Huawei’s networking equipment in parts of the country’s 5G mobile networks in spite of widespread opposition.