US firms to once again work with Huawei on 5G standards

The US wants to ensure that country's participation in 5G standards-setting is not restricted

The US Department of Commerce is reportedly close to signing off on a new rule that allows US companies to work with China’s Huawei Technologies on setting standards for next-generation 5G networks, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

As Europost reminds, engineers in some US technology companies stopped engaging with Huawei to develop standards after the Commerce Department placed the company on its “entity list” last May, restricting sales of US goods and technology to it and raising questions about how US firms could participate in organisations that establish industry standards.

That has put the US at a disadvantage, say industry and government officials. 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 US engineers sat back in silence. And 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.

So after nearly a year of uncertainty, the department has drafted a new rule to address the issue, two sources told Reuters. The rule, which could still change, essentially allows US companies to participate in standards bodies where Huawei is also a member, the sources said. 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, however, how long the full process will take or if another agency will object.

“As we approach the year mark, it is very much past time that this is addressed and clarified,” said Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents companies including Inc (AMZN.O), Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) and Intel Corp (INTC.O).

The US government wants US companies to remain competitive with Huawei, Wilson said. “But their policies have inadvertently caused US companies to lose their seat at the table to Huawei and others on the entity list.”

The rule is only expected to address Huawei, the people familiar with the matter said, not other listed entities like Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision.

The Department of Commerce declined to comment. Huawei also declined to comment.

The news comes as six American senators, including China hawks Marco Rubio, James Inhofe and Tom Cotton, last month sent a letter to the US secretaries of Commerce, State, Defense and Energy about the urgent need to issue regulations confirming that the country's participation in 5G standards-setting is not restricted by the entity listing.

“We are deeply concerned about the risks to the US global leadership position in 5G wireless technology as a result of this reduced participation,” the letter said.

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