Huawei lawyers-up in North America

Huawei’s CFO is suing Canada, while the company is also reportedly set to sue the US government.

While the US and Huawei kept their conflict muted during Mobile World Congress last week, they have wasted little time in picking up where they left off after that brief hiatus. Having said that there was widespread talk on the show floor last week that there were many representatives of the US government and other public institutions at the event, apparently canvassing for support.

Anyway, the BBC reports that last Friday Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, filed a civil suit against Canada for breaching her civil rights when it arrested her late last year. The move coincided with the official commencement of her extradition process to the US, which wants to try her for a bunch of alleged crimes. Her case seems to rest on some perceived irregularities in the process by which she was arrested, but is probably part of a broader coordinated legal counter-attack by Huawei.

Meanwhile Huawei is also preparing to sue the US government, according to multiple reports, the first of which seems to have come from the New York Times. This suit is apparently unconnected to the latest US offensive, and concerns the much older ruling that banned US federal agencies from using Huawei products.

Once more, however, this would appear to be part of a greater legal push against the US by Huawei. In this case, by suing the US and therefore obliging it to defend itself, the cunning plan could be to bring specific allegations into the open, which Huawei could then refute. One of the biggest criticisms of the US war on Huawei has been a lack of specifics, so this seems like a plausible tactic.

At this stage it’s still really difficult to see how the war between the US and Huawei will play out. On one hand momentum seems to be against Huawei, with US allies feeling compelled to at least go through the motions of siding with it. On the other, if Huawei can publicly demonstrate that a significant proportion of the charges against it are unfounded, then maybe it can start to swing some Western public opinion its way. Either way both sides seem dug-in for a long conflict.

US starts to get twitchy over travel to China

The US Department of State has renewed its warning over citizens travelling to China over fears of retaliation following the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Canada.

After Washington ordered the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada last month, China has seemingly retaliated with a spree of its own arrests. Reports suggest as many as 13 Canadians have been held in China, including former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor. Reacting to the news, the US State Department has issued its own warning.

On the State Department website, the caution level has been raised to ‘Level Two’, suggesting citizens ‘exercise increased caution’ when visiting the country. ‘Level Three’ would see the government advising citizens to reconsider travel plans, while ‘Level Four’ suggests the country should be avoided.

“Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual US-Chinese nationals,” the website states. “Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping US citizens in China for years.”

Despite the tension caused by the political conflict between Washington and Beijing, it does not appear to have affected the attitude of executives. Apple CEO Tim Cook has suggested he will not be revising his own plans to travel to China, though it would be tough to see the Chinese government holding Cook considering there are seemingly no grounds to do so. Apple is currently ignoring a ban on iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 sales in the country, thanks to the patent dispute with Qualcomm, but this seem like thin justification to arrest the CEO.

This international conflict is multi-faceted, but technology is one of the key components. Ultimately, the US wants to withstand the challenge the Chinese are making to Silicon Valley’s domination of the technology world and the benefits this brings the entire US economy. Despite these moves from the US State Department, experience suggests the Chinese will not make any drastic moves against the US; it has been much more measured and strategic in its approach to tackling the trade war to date than the White House has been.

That said, it would not surprise us if a couple of US citizens start appearing in jail cells either.

NZ and Canada decline to jump on the Huawei banned wagon

Despite the current fashion for banning Huawei among US allies, New Zealand and Canada have both indicated they may not play ball.

The Chinese kit vendor has been a pariah in the US for years, but more recently Australia decided to join in the fun and there have been rumours of other countries with close ties to the US following suit. But a couple of reports this week point towards a lack of unanimity on the part of ‘the west’ over this matter.

Reseller News spoke to Kiwi MP Andrew Little, who indicated his government is not convinced Huawei poses a security threat. “New Zealand develops its own, independent security policy based on inputs from a range of sources,” said Little. “As you’d expect with any change in technology of such significance as 5G, officials are considering whether the existing framework will remain fit-for-purpose in the new environment.”

While this appears to leave open the possibility that NZ might yet sanction Huawei, US neighbour Canada seems to be taking a more absolute stance. Earlier this week the Globe and Mail published a story with the following headline: ‘No need to ban Huawei in light of Canada’s robust cybersecurity safeguards, top official says’.

This is the verdict of Scott Jones, the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, who reckons Canada is perfectly capable of working out for itself whether any technology presents security concerns.

“We have a very advanced relationship with our telecommunications providers, something that is different from most other countries to be honest from what I have seen,” Jones is reported as saying. “We have a program that is very deep in terms of working on increasing that broader resilience piece especially as we are looking at the next-generation telecommunications networks.”

Huawei is understandably keen to see these decisions reported as widely as the Australian one. It seems reasonable to assume that if enough US allies ban it from 5G infrastructure then it will become increasingly difficult for the rest not to follow suit. Europe has kept quiet on the matter and so long as countries like NZ and Canada decline to play ball Huawei might feel it’s on top of the damage limitation

Huawei claims first North American live FWA trial with Telus

Barred from the US, Chinese networking giant Huawei pointedly went north of the border to show everyone how it thinks fixed wireless access should be done.

Huawei is trying to coin the term ‘Wireless to the Home’ to describe its FWA, although its chosen abbreviation of WTTx seems deliberately designed to keep its options open. Either way FWA is generally expected to be one of the first commercial manifestations of 5G and Huawei isn’t about to let Ericsson and Nokia have things all their own way just because they’re allowed into the US and it isn’t.

This was ‘an end-to-end user trial for WTTx 5G service using a specially-designed 5G CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) unit,’ according to the release. It was conducted in partnership with Telus in Vancouver, specifically in a part of Vancouver that has been designated a ‘5G living lab’, which seems to consist of Telus employees.

“This trial represents continued progress toward the launch of 5G, as we start to replicate both the in-home experience and network footprint we will see when 5G becomes commercially available in the near future,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO at Telus. “Wireless 5G services will generate tremendous benefits for consumers, operators, governments and more through the use of advanced IoT devices, big data applications, smart city systems and other technologies of the future.”

“Millimetre Wave technology will be an important tool in ensuring widespread deployment of 5G technology in Canada,” said Dr. Wen Tong, Huawei Fellow, and CTO of Huawei Wireless. “Huawei’s 5G solutions and terminals will enable 5G coverage over a neighbourhood or small community cost effectively, while providing more convenient and high-speed home broadband Internet access services. This friendly user trial will drive the global 3GPP unified 5G standard and build a solid foundation for the 5G early commercialization.”

This effort apparently builds on some trials the two companies did in the middle of last year. It used the 28 GHz spectrum band, and a massive 800 MHz of it, as well as groovy new technologies such as Massive MIMO, F-OFDM, and Polar Code. Huawei is clearly unhappy at its treatment by the US and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it up its investment in Canada to make a point.