The series of events warming up to the entire ‘Google bans Huawei’ story began with a move by the US Government in May 2019. A directive was issued that prohibited US companies from collaborating with Huawei. Google was no exception. However, it particularly grabbed headlines as all the Huawei smartphones by that time ran on the Google’s Android OS.
Now, latest updates reveal that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially declared Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation as national security threats. The two firms have been accused of spying for the Chinese government and sharing data of US citizens with their native administration. Interestingly, the US order came a day after the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps, referring to them as a potential threat to the sovereignty of the country.
Rising US-China tensions and trade restrictions in the recent times has become a major concern for tech companies. Notably, most popular smartphones (except for iPhones) used to run on the Android OS. Moreover, Android operating system is the most popular choice among non-Apple users or rather has been the only other choice for a long time.
History of US Huawei bans
This is not the first time US has flagged concerns around Huawei and ZTE. House Intelligence Committee of United Stated had warned businesses against the two firms back in 2012. The agency had raised concerns that the two firms were a potential risk for national security. Hence, opining that American businesses should avoid buying equipment from ZTE and Huawei.
Obama administration had blacklisted ZTE for seven years on the allegations that it had violated economic sanction norms imposed on Iran. However, his succeeding President Donald Trump stated in 2018 that the two firms could stay in the States if they provide high-level security guarantees along with a fine of $1.3 billion.
In a statement, FCC Chairperson Ajit Pai said, “Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services.”
What does the Google-Huawei ban mean for your Huawei smartphone?
As the US prohibits Google from partnering with Huawei, their latest smartphones cannot access Google Services. Thus, new Huawei or Honor phones will no longer come with pre-loaded apps from Google including Google Play Store, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Assistant.
The US orders left smartphones buyers and existing Huawei users in a major confusion. So, to help its users, Google also uploaded a post answering questions on Huawei smartphones and Google services on its support page.
Notably, the Huawei smartphones which have been released before May 2019 continue to receive security upgrades from Google. However, the recent change in the Huawei-Google partnership forced the Chinese smartphone manufacturer to develop its own operating system, the HarmonyOS for its smartphones.
How Will the Huawei Ban Impact India?
The impact of trade ban on Huawei by US would not be restricted to the two countries. Notably, Huawei is currently the largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment in the world. Moreover, it is also the second largest manufacturer of mobile phone parts. The Chinese telecomm firm has contributed to the telecomm sector in several nations by helping them build larger infrastructure at lower costs.
As the world gears up towards 5G, the US ban on Huawei and ZTE can lead to rising costs of telecomm equipment by up to 30 per cent. As per the Indian Express report, “With the reserve price for 8,300 MHz spectrum, including the 5G band kept unchanged at Rs 5.22 lakh crore, low cost equipment from Huawei or ZTE could have provided some relief to domestic telcos.”
It further added that Huawei currently provides nearly 25 per cent of the total telecom equipment in India. Notably, Huawei India CEO had said last year that the provider of telecommunications equipment was ready to sign a “no backdoor” agreement with the government. However, the Indo-China relations have undergone a tremendous change in the recent months following the geo-political tensions across the Line of Actual Control.
Following the ban of social media giant TikTok, several news platforms have alleged that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) may now also restrict Huawei and ZTE from participating in the 4G network expansion tenders floated by Bharat Sanchar BSNL and MTNL.