U.S. allows its firms to work with Huawei on 5G and other standards

The United States said it has decided to allow U.S. companies to work with China’s Huawei Technologies on setting standards for next-generation 5G networks.
Huawei smartphone retail shopThe U.S. Commerce Department and other agencies signed off on the rule change, which is awaiting publication in the Federal Register, Reuters reported. The rule was sent to the Federal Register on Friday and is set to be published as early as Tuesday.

“The United States will not cede leadership in innovation. The department is committed to protecting U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by encouraging U.S. industry to fully engage and advocate for U.S. technologies to become international standards,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

The Commerce Department noted that U.S. participation in standards-setting influences the future of 5G, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and other technologies.

Last year, the United States placed Huawei Technologies on the Commerce Department’s entity list, which restricted sales of U.S. goods and technology to the company, citing national security.

Industry and government officials said the rule change should not be viewed as a sign of weakening U.S. resolve against Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment maker and the second largest smartphone supplier.

They said the Huawei entity listing put the United States at a disadvantage in standards settings, where companies develop specifications to allow telecom equipment from different companies to function together.

With U.S. companies uncertain what technology or information they were allowed to share, engineers from some U.S. firms reduced their participation, giving Huawei a stronger voice.

The new rule came in response to concerns from U.S. companies and lawmakers, a person briefed on the matter said.

“Confusion stemming from the May 2019 entity list update had inadvertently sidelined U.S. companies from some technical standards conversations, putting them at a strategic disadvantage,” said Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon.com, Qualcomm and Intel.

“This clarification will allow companies to again compete and lead in these foundational activities that help enable the rollout of advanced technologies, such as 5G and AI, across markets,” Naomi Wilson said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Chinese officials in Hawaii this week amid increased tensions between the two countries, according to another person familiar with the matter.