US drafts rule to allow Huawei and US firms to work on 5G standards

The US Department of Commerce is close to finalize a new rule that allows U.S. companies to work with China’s Huawei Technologies on setting standards for 5G networks, Reuters reported.
Huawei at Mobile World Congress 2019Engineers in some U.S. technology companies stopped engaging with Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, to develop standards after the Commerce Department blacklisted the company last year. The listing left companies uncertain about what technology and information their employees could share with Huawei.

That has put the U.S. at a disadvantage. In standards setting meetings, where protocols and technical specifications are developed that allow equipment from different companies to function together smoothly, Huawei gained a stronger voice as U.S. engineers sat back in silence.

Industry standards are big business for telecommunications firms. They vie to have their patented technology considered essential to the standard, which can boost a company’s bottom line by billions of dollars.

The Commerce Department placed Huawei on its “entity list” last May, restricting sales of U.S. goods and technology to the company and raising questions about how U.S. firms could participate in organizations that establish industry standards.

After nearly a year of uncertainty, the department has drafted a new rule to address the issue. The rule essentially allows U.S. companies to participate in standards bodies where Huawei is also a member.

The draft is under final review at the Commerce Department and, if cleared, would go to other agencies for approval, the people said. It is unclear how long the full process will take or if another agency will object.

The U.S. government wants U.S. companies to remain competitive with Huawei. “But their policies have inadvertently caused U.S. companies to lose their seat at the table to Huawei and others on the entity list,” Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), said.

ITI represents companies including, Qualcomm and Intel.

Six U.S. senators, including China hawks Marco Rubio, James Inhofe and Tom Cotton, last month sent a letter to the U.S. secretaries of Commerce, State, Defense and Energy about the need to issue regulations confirming that U.S. participation in 5G standards-setting is not restricted by the entity listing.