Pressure on Huawei Shifts Closer to Home
The US campaign against Huawei has shifted closer to the Chinese vendor's home market in recent days, having an impact in Vietnam and in the APAC submarine cable sector.
In Vietnam, operators had shied away from Huawei with their 5G technology partner selections, with the market's leading mobile operator, state-owned Viettel, stating it has opted for the "safer" options of Ericsson and Nokia, reports Bloomberg.
This is no surprise: As reported earlier this month, Vietnam and China have an uneasy relationship and the country's other (smaller) operators, Mobifone and Vinaphone, have elected to work with Samsung and Nokia respectively on their 5G plans. It's notable, though, that the Viettel CEO chose to point out in his comments to Bloomberg that Huawei has been cited as "unsafe."
Meanwhile, out at sea, the US Justice, Defense and Homeland Security departments are reportedly attempting to prevent a newly built US-China subsea cable, the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), from being lit up.
The main cause of concern is Huawei's role as prime supplier and builder, through its Huawei Marine joint venture, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Yet the 12,971km cable, due to start service later this year, otherwise appears an unlikely target for Washington sanction. For one thing, it has Facebook and Google as co-investors. For another, construction is all but complete. Additionally, the cable lands in Hong Kong, not mainland China. It also helps meet the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth between the world's two largest economies.
The Chinese partner, Dr Peng, is China's largest privately held telco and data center operator: It also owns a small Californian operator, Vertex Telecom (and, as a result, ISP Giggle Fiber).
Dr Peng is also reported to be a security concern. But unlike the big three operators, it is free from direct Beijing control: Previous US administrations have had no problem in approving cables built by state-owned, Communist party-controlled operators such as China Telecom and China Mobile.
Dr Peng is promoting the planned 144Tbit/s capacity cable as the fastest route from Hong Kong to the US, and also an alternative to existing transpacific cables, such as the ten-year-old Trans-Pacific Express (TPE), which is running out of capacity, and the newer Google-invested FASTER.
The plan to kill off the cable at this late stage is bound to be fiercely resisted by US telcos as well as Facebook and Google. AT&T and Verizon are co-investors in multiple cables across the Pacific, typically in partnership with one or more state-owned telcos.
Any action by the US government runs the risk of making it harder to land future cables in China, or simply making business more difficult for the US players. They have limited commercial footprint within China, but what business they have is reliant on government goodwill.
This is not the first Huawei-linked cable to be blocked. The Australian government last year stepped in to fund a new cable from the Solomon Islands to Papua New Guinea and Sydney.
Originally, the Solomon Islands government had awarded the 4,700km cable to Huawei Marine, but agreed to reissue the tender after Australia committed to funding most of the cost.
For its part, Huawei has decided the submarine cable business is not worth the bother: It is unloading its 51% stake in its Huawei Marine joint venture with UK subsea construction specialist Global Marine, agreeing the sale of its stake to another Chinese firm, Hengtong Optical, in May.
It continues to persevere in other areas, though: Despite being vilified and shunned by Australian operators as they pondered their 5G strategies, Huawei is looking to interest those operators with its 6G developments, reports our sister site Telecoms.com.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading