Washington’s top telecoms regulator has banned China-based Huawei and ZTE from selling equipment to the United States, citing national security concerns to an extent that could further fuel tensions with Beijing.
The Federal Communications Commission announced the measure on Friday, saying it was the latest effort by US authorities to “build a safer and more resilient supply chain” in the telecommunications industry.
“The action we are taking today relates to base station equipment entering our networks. It covers phones, cameras, and WiFi routers that enter our homes. And that covers brand name or “white label” equipment that is developed for the market. In other words, this approach is comprehensive,” said FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel.
The FCC commissioners’ unanimous decision implements a 2021 law signed into law by US President Joe Biden and completes a crackdown on companies such as Huawei and ZTE that has intensified in recent years and become a symbol of the cracks more wide between Washington and Beijing in trade and technology.
It comes after Biden implemented sweeping export controls affecting China’s semiconductor industry and met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia earlier this month.
“This is the first time – ever – that the FCC has banned electronic equipment for US national security reasons,” said Eurasia Group analyst Alexis Serfaty. “It gives you an idea of both the unique position Huawei finds itself in but also how seriously the US government scrutinizes the Chinese telecom giant.”
The FCC had already stopped allowing Huawei and ZTE equipment to be purchased in the United States using federal funds, but Friday’s decision will also cover entirely private transactions.
Rosenworcel said that in addition, the FCC would ban the sale of telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from Chinese groups Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua used for “public safety, security of government facilities, physical surveillance of critical infrastructure and ‘other national security purposes’ until they introduced certain ‘safeguards’ on such sales.
The US government has long had Huawei in its sights, but increased its hostility towards the company under the Trump administration, when it placed the company on a Commerce Department export blacklist and sought to persuade allies and partners to ditch Huawei gear, with varying degrees of success.