For many years Huawei’s alleged ties to the Communist Chinese government have led to rumors that the company placed spy equipment in its phones and telecomunications equipment that would collect personal and corporate data on behalf of the Chinese government. While both firms denied the accusations numerous times, the rumors persist to this day. In 2018, the U.S. government told its allies not to use Huawei’s networking equipment
when building out their 5G networks.
Investigation finds Huawei gear in rural cell towers that had disturbing capabilities
Huawei, the global leader in supplying telecom equipment to the industry, was still enjoying brisk business from the move to 5G despite U.S. efforts. Only a few U.S. allies heeded the warning and some, like England, originally chose to ignore the warnings before it eventually banned Huawei from the country’s 5G networks
Back in 2020, Huawei’s Deputy Chairman Ken Hu spoke with telecom leaders about 5G capabilities
What brings all of this up again is a report published by CNN
today. The global cable news network learned exclusively that during a previous investigation that dates back to the Obama administration, the FBI had examined cell towers near U.S. military bases located in rural territory in the Midwest. According to multiple sources that spoke with CNN, what the FBI discovered was that Huawei equipment placed atop these towers contained equipment that could capture and disrupt “highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.”
A former FBI employee familiar with the investigation said, “This gets into some of the most sensitive things we do. It would impact our ability for essentially command and control with the nuclear triad. If it is possible for that to be disrupted, then that is a very bad day.”
As we’ve told you over the years, rural wireless providers were apt to use Huawei telecom equipment because of the cheaper pricing and many of these purchases were subsidized by the FCC’s Universal Services Fund (USF) which is funded by a charge placed against network providers based on their interstate and international revenues.
The FCC last year voted to spend $1.9 billion from the fund to “rip and replace” gear from Huawei and ZTE from rural networks in the U.S. that used the equipment. However, the cost of completing this task has risen to $5.6 billion
and the rural carriers want to be reimbursed for spending the money needed to remove and replace the equipment from the two Chinese firms. Unless Congress agrees to release the amount of the shortfall, the rural carriers will get back only 40% of what it will cost them to remove the offending telecom gear.
CNN sources say there is no question that the discovered Huawei gear was a major security threat
The results of this investigation were never publicly released-until now when more than a dozen sources spoke anonymously with CNN. It isn’t known whether the FBI was able to determine whether the discovered equipment was able to send stolen data to the Chinese government in Beijing. While the Chinese have denied that it made any attempt to spy on the U.S., Huawei told CNN that its equipment is unable to operate in any of the spectrum that has been awarded to the U.S. Defense Department.
But Huawei’s denial rings hollow as again, multiple sources told CNN that there is no question that the Huawei equipment discovered had the capability to intercept commercial cell traffic and military communications. The gear can also disrupt U.S. Strategic Command communications which would allow the Chinese to get details about the nuclear arsenal available to the United States.
Huawei’s current flagship phone, the photography-centered P50 Pro
The last three administrations in the U.S. have been wary of Huawei with the investigation that we are talking about now taking place during the two terms when Barack Obama was president. During the Trump years, Huawei
was about to become the leading smartphone manufacturer in the world when the U.S. cut the company off from accessing its U.S. supply chain costing Huawei the ability to use Google software and apps.
Also during the Trump era, Huawei was cut off from obtaining cutting-edge chips thanks to a new export rule put into place by the Commerce Department. Huawei was forced to develop its own operating system and now uses Qualcomm chips that have been modified to run on 4G networks only. To prevent its sub-unit Honor from going down the toilet with it, Huawei sold the company for $15 billion.
The Commerce Department started another investigation of Huawei in 2021 after Joe Biden became the president.
While it still is the top company in providing telecom equipment globally, when it comes to smartphones the firm is a shadow of its old self. It no longer is one of the top six smartphone manufacturers in the world.