The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously to ban the import of equipment from the Chinese vendors, having judged them a threat to national security
On Friday, the FCC officially banned the sale and import of “untrustworthy” equipment made by major Chinese telecoms vendors Huawei and ZTE.
The FCC says that these vendors represent a threat to national security in the US and that their equipment could be used to spy on US citizens.
The ban also encompasses Chinese surveillance technology firms Dahua Technology and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, as well as radio equipment manufacturer Hytera Communications Corp, unless they can assure the FCC that the equipment will not be used for public safety, security of government facilities, and other national security purposes.
“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here,” said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Rosenworcel described the ban as “comprehensive”, covering everything from base station equipment to cameras, as well as ‘white label’ products that have been rebranded for sale by another party.
The ban has been a long time coming, with President Joe Biden offering the Chinese companies little respite in the face of deepening tensions between the US and China. Biden signed the Secure Equipment Act into law in November last year, aiming to close ‘loopholes’ being used by the restricted vendors and their customers to continue doing business together.
It is this law which is now being put into effect by the FCC.
Huawei and ZTE were first designated as national security threats by the FCC back in 2020, thereby disallowing US firms from using government funding to purchase equipment from the Chinese companies. Since then, tensions between the US government and these companies have only increased, with the FCC were already considering expanding the restrictions to a full-scale ban in summer last year.
As they have done from the onset of these government restrictions, the Chinese firms have argued that they operate in full compliance with US regulations and are being treated unfairly by the US government.
“This decision by the FCC will do nothing to protect U.S. national security, but will do a great deal to make it more harmful and more expensive for U.S. small businesses, local authorities, school districts, and individual consumers to protect themselves, their homes, businesses and property,” said Hikvision in a statement.
Huawei and ZTE have yet to release official statements.
This represents the first time in US history that the government has banned telecoms equipment on the grounds of national security.
EDIT: ZTE has provided the following comment:
“ZTE has made repeated attempts at constructive engagement with U.S. policymakers to understand any possible concerns about the products it now sells in the United States. At no time has the United States Government identified any specific, addressable concerns with regard to products that ZTE sells in the United States or instances in which ZTE products have been used to impair either U.S. security or consumer privacy.
In light of the current market environment, ZTE will gradually withdraw its business operations from the U.S. and focus its continued growth in other markets.”
How will the tensions between China and the US affect the global telecoms market? Join the US telecoms ecosystem in discussion at the upcoming Connected America conference.