When It Comes to Licensing Huawei, US Vendors Uniformly Say 'Not It'

Huawei has said that it is in early talks to license its 5G technology to US 5G players. Such a move would potentially allow the company to sidestep a US government ban on the company's ability to sell directly into the US market.

"We actually are in early discussions with a couple of players -- very early discussions," Tim Danks, Huawei's VP of risk management and partner relations, said last week.

But no US vendor is admitting to engaging with Huawei. At least not yet.

An informal poll of some top vendors in the US turned up firm repudiation when it came to whether they would consider licensing 5G technology from China's Huawei.

Here's how it broke down:

  • "No": JMA Wireless, Parallel Wireless, Airspan, Samsung
  • "No comment": Mavenir, Ericsson
  • Did not respond: Boingo

In comments with Light Reading, an Ericsson spokesperson pointed out that the issue isn't as straightforward as it would seem, considering Huawei, Ericsson and a wide variety of other technology companies helped develop the 5G standard and therefore have a number of patents against the technology. Thus, any company playing in the 5G space must obtain a license from those patent holders in order to develop 5G products. So, in that respect, Huawei is indeed licensing out its 5G technology to US companies.

However, Huawei's new licensing offer appears to represent a step beyond simple patent licensing to include access to its full product lineup. Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei told Reuters last month that Huawei was willing to license its 5G technology to a US company in order to alleviate American security concerns about the Chinese company. Such a move could be alluring to a US vendor as it would give them access to technology from a major 5G player -- after all, Huawei is the largest wireless networking equipment supplier in the world, according to market share data from research firm Dell'Oro group.

However, US officials have warned that Huawei's equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. As a result, law- and policymakers ranging from the FCC to the Department of Commerce to Congress have taken steps to block Huawei from the US telecommunications industry. Those concerns have even opened discussions about ripping out Huawei's existing equipment in US networks.

Not surprisingly, this has soured Huawei's standing in the US telecommunications market, thus creating significant issues for any US vendor considering licensing its 5G technology.

Huawei, for its part, continues to assert that its products can't be used for spying and that it's being unfairly targeted by a US government seeking leverage in its trade war against China.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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