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Author Topic: The Huawei ban explained: A complete timeline 1/2  (Read 158 times)
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« on: January 09, 2021, 07:16:52 PM »

If you’ve been following the tech industry over the past year, you no doubt know that Huawei is in a heap of trouble. Since May of 2019, the Chinese company has been under fire from the United States government, resulting in what is colloquially referred to as the “Huawei ban.” This ongoing battle has forced Huawei to drastically change its business practices.

If you are curious as to how the Huawei-US ban came to be, the details surrounding the ban, and what it means for Huawei going forward, this is the place to be.

Below, you’ll find all the integral info related to the ban. We’ve also got some helpful tips specifically related to Huawei’s smartphones and how the ban affects both current and future handsets.

Editor’s note: This Huawei ban summary is current as of November 2020. Since this is an ongoing situation, we will update it with new content regularly. However, for the most up-to-date info on Huawei, we advise you to check our latest Huawei news articles.

Why is Huawei banned? A (very) quick summary

Although this article is an in-depth examination of the Huawei ban, you might be happy with a shortened version of the story. The basic gist is as follows:

   • Huawei is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. At the start of 2019,
      the company was expected to become the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer by the
      end of that year, stealing the crown from Samsung.

   • Despite this success, Huawei has dealt with numerous accusations over the years of shady
      business practices. It also has been accused — although with no hard proof — of using its
      products to spy on other nations. This is a worrisome thought considering the company’s close
      ties to the Chinese government.

   • In May 2019, United States President Donald Trump announced that Huawei — along with
      several other Chinese companies — was now on something called the Entity List. Companies
      on this list are unable to do business with any organization that operates in the United States.

   • The Huawei ban thus begins, with Huawei suddenly unable to work with companies such as
      Google, Qualcomm, and Intel, among many others. In the case of Google, this means new
      Huawei smartphones are no longer able to ship with Google-owned applications pre-installed.

With the Huawei-US ban in effect, the company has had to completely revamp how it creates and releases smartphones. It also faces mounting scrutiny from other nations, many of which rely on Huawei for wireless networking equipment.

Since May 2019, Huawei has had some minor wins, but the bulk of the ban is still in place. It appears the Huawei ban will be in effect in perpetuity and the company will need to strategize around it until further notice.

Huawei history: The background info you need

In the grand scheme of things, Huawei is a relatively young company. Ren Zhengfei started Huawei in 1987 after he was discharged from the People’s Liberation Army in China. Zhengfei’s military history helped Huawei get some of its first big contracts. This is one of the main reasons Huawei is viewed as a de facto branch of the Chinese government.

Huawei has faced scrutiny from the beginning for allegedly stealing intellectual property. In brief, the company would be accused repeatedly over the decades of stealing technology from other companies and then passing it off as its own. There are a few times where this has been proven, such as with a 2003 case filed by Cisco, but there are many other times where accusations didn’t lead to confirmation.

In the late 2000s, Huawei was growing at an incredibly fast pace. The company started acquiring other companies to expand their operations. Several times, it attempted to buy non-Chinese companies and the sale would be blocked by regulatory bodies. This happened in the US and UK, among other areas. Each time, the reasoning behind the block would be related to Huawei’s deep ties to China and the possible security threat that represents.

Eventually, Huawei started making smartphones. Its phones became popular immediately as they were well-designed devices with very reasonable price tags. In 2016, Huawei boasted it would be the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer within five years. By 2018, it had taken second place ahead of Apple and just behind Samsung. This is a remarkable feat considering Huawei was handicapped by not having any presence in the United States, now the world’s third-largest market.

Donald Trump, China, and the ongoing trade war

While Huawei was growing at an astounding rate in 2018, all was not well in regards to its home country. Donald Trump started to flex his power as POTUS to combat China and its “unfair trade practices,” as he called them. This began the still-ongoing US/China trade war.

Although the trade war has a lot to do with politics, tariffs, and international law, it also touches on intellectual property theft. Since Huawei has a reputation as a repeat offender when it comes to IP theft, this put the company in Trump’s crosshairs.

However, critics at the time noted that a long-term US/China trade war would hurt both countries significantly. Because of this, it was assumed that Trump would try to strongarm deals from China that would be advantageous to the US and then be done with it. This isn’t how things went, though.

Despite the fact that the trade war is associated very closely with Donald Trump, it is actually one of the few moves he has made that has bipartisan support. US President-elect Joe Biden previously declared that he supports active monitoring of trade with China. During his campaign, he tried to say that he would remove Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products if elected president, but his staff walked back the statement.

This suggests that even when Trump steps down and Biden takes over the presidency, the trade war could still stay in effect.

The Huawei ban begins on May 15, 2019

On May 15, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order that bans the use of telecommunications equipment from foreign firms deemed a national security risk. The order itself doesn’t mention Huawei (or even China) specifically. However, the US Department of Commerce created what it refers to as an “Entity List” related to the order that does contain Huawei’s name.

Since the order didn’t reference Huawei specifically, its effect on the company and its various lines of business wasn’t totally clear. It appeared the order was mostly directed towards Huawei’s telecom operations, which would mean its wireless networking equipment, especially those related to 5G.

The order also didn’t make it clear whether the US government would help carriers pay for the removal of Huawei equipment. It also didn’t clarify any punishments US companies would face if they didn’t comply with the order. In brief, the Huawei ban seemed serious but there were too many unknowns to understand where it would go.

Huawei, in a statement to Android Authority that day, said this: “Restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the US lagging behind in 5G deployment.” Even this statement made it seem like Trump’s order was only going to apply to Huawei’s networking gear and not its smartphones or other products.

That all changed a few days later.

Goodbye Google: The Huawei Google ban, explained

On Sunday, May 19, 2019, Google publicly declared that it would be complying with Trump’s Huawei ban. Interpreting the language of the order, Google determined that the proper course of action would be to cut Huawei off from Google’s suite of digital products.

This means that Huawei no longer would have access to the very fundamentals of Android smartphones. Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and even the Google Play Store itself were now no longer available for Huawei to use on new products.

This news sent a shockwave through the tech world. Remember that at this point, Huawei is the second-largest smartphone manufacturer globally, and every single one of its phones runs on Android. Without access to Google apps, millions of Huawei smartphone owners were understandably concerned that their phones would suddenly stop working correctly.

When the dust settled, it became clear that Huawei phones certified by Google and launched prior to May 15, 2019, would continue to operate as normal. However, any uncertified phones, tablets, or other products released by Huawei after that date would be Google-less.

Not long after Google made its announcement, other US-based companies followed suit. This included Qualcomm, Intel, Arm, Microsoft, and many more.

Huawei tries to fight back

Huawei wasn’t about to take this lying down. Only a few days after the Huawei-US ban took effect, the company had issued several sternly worded statements declaring its intentions to fight the order. By the end of May, the company had filed a legal motion declaring the ban unconstitutional. Towards the end of June 2019, there was a lawsuit against the US Department of Commerce over the Entity List.

Unfortunately, these legal maneuvers didn’t bear much fruit. After all, an executive order from the US president himself isn’t an easy thing to fight.

Interestingly, US-based companies came out in support of Huawei while simultaneously cutting commercial ties. Even Google declared that — if given the opportunity — it would want to continue working with Huawei. Huawei’s biggest telecom rival Ericsson also criticized the ban. In addition, tech industry analysts noted that the Huawei ban hurts US-based companies too because Huawei is such a massive business.

Eventually, China tried to turn the tables by threatening to create its own Entity List. Huawei then upped the ante by accusing the US of cyberattacks and employee harassment. However, the company supplied no evidence to support these accusations and they led nowhere.

By mid-2020, Huawei had apparently accepted its fate. It hasn’t filed any new lawsuits or made any public declarations that it’s still trying to overturn the Huawei ban.

Full Huawei ban gets delays, license system established

Not even a week after Trump issued the executive order that kickstarted the Huawei ban, the US issued a 90-day reprieve of the ban’s full effects. This gave Huawei and its clients until August 19, 2019, to make arrangements for the weight of the ban.

As luck would have it, this 90-day reprieve would be extended three consecutive times. By February 2020, Huawei had had nearly a year of living without the full ramifications of the ban. That same month, the US government issued a final 45-day reprieve, allowing the Huawei ban to take full and permanent effect by April 1, 2020. Before that date arrived, Donald Trump signed a law banning rural US carriers from using Huawei equipment.

While that was all happening, the US government rolled out a licensing system for US firms that wished to work with Huawei. The government allegedly received 130 applications for licenses but granted none of them. The government stated that licenses would go to companies whose work with Huawei would not pose a security threat. Google — which applied for one of these licenses — apparently didn’t fall into this category.

Towards the end of 2020, companies started to receive approval for partial deals with Huawei. Qualcomm, Sony, and Samsung can sell particular pieces of smartphone manufacturing parts to Huawei. However, these small wins still won’t help the company go back to business as usual.

Harmony OS: The alternative to Android

While Huawei is unable to use Google-owned services and products in its phones, that doesn’t mean it can’t use Android itself. Android is an open-source operating system, which means that any person or company can use it for whatever they like without cost. However, many of the integral features of Android that users rely on aren’t included with “pure” Android and are actually owned by Google.

Theoretically, Huawei could use Google-less Android to power its smartphones and tablets indefinitely. In the background, though, Huawei had all along been working on a so-called “Plan B” operating system that would act as a fallback should a situation such as this Huawei ban ever come to pass. On August 9, 2019, the company launched “Plan B” as Harmony OS.

Harmony OS is based on Linux, which is the same open-source platform on which Android is based. This means that Harmony and Android can share compatibilities with one another. Theoretically, if a developer wished to do the work to make it compatible, any Android app can work within Harmony OS.

Originally, Huawei declared it would only use Harmony OS on the Internet of Things (IoT) products. This means it would stick with Android for smartphones, which it’s done so far. However, it’s fairly obvious that — at some point in the future — Harmony OS will become a “Huawei OS” that will power pretty much everything it makes. This would free it from ever needing to be concerned about a Huawei-US ban again.

Most would think that a new OS going up against Android and iOS is a fool’s errand. However, Huawei is so huge and has so much influence in China that it’s actually totally capable of pulling that off. Keep in mind that, since Harmony OS is based on Linux, it’s also an open-source operating system. This means other companies can use Harmony OS instead of Android. It’s not at all out of the realm of possibility that other Chinese smartphone companies will adopt Harmony OS on at least some of their devices.

For now, Huawei smartphones and tablets ship with Android, albeit a version that has no Google products incorporated. In 2021, though, we expect to see at least one Harmony OS-powered smartphone from the company.

Huawei Mate 30 series launches, first flagships without Google

If you’ll remember, the Huawei ban only affects products released after May 15, 2019. That means Huawei’s most recent flagship launch before that date — the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro, which launched on March 26, 2019 — continued to run the full suite of Google apps.

However, Huawei traditionally releases its Mate series — its other family of flagship phones — in the last half of the year. At first, rumors swirled that Huawei simply would skip the Huawei Mate 30 Pro launch. Ultimately, though, it went forward with the launch of a flagship phone without any Google apps whatsoever.

For the first few months, the phone was only available in China and several other smaller countries. Eventually, it made its way to the West. The phones received stellar reviews (even here at Android Authority), but few publications would recommend consumers buy the device due to its software shortcomings.

Unbelievably, the Mate 30 series still sold exceptionally well. Never underestimate the enormous population of China supporting one of their own. However, outside of China the phone only made it into the hands of die-hard Huawei followers.

A workaround: Huawei repackages older devices

Huawei quickly found a loophole related to the Huawei ban and Google’s adherence to Trump’s executive order. The company realized that Google approves Android phones not based on their name or design but only on a few core components — most specifically the processor. This means that Huawei could rebrand and repackage a phone that Google approved prior to the ban and resell it without violating the order.

Obviously, this wasn’t a long-term solution to the company’s woes. Huawei couldn’t perpetually re-release the P30 Pro over and over again, for example. However, that didn’t stop it from doing just that — twice. First, it issued two new colorways for the P30 Pro series, which it announced in September 2019. Then in early May 2020, it announced its intention to launch what it called the Huawei P30 Pro New Edition, which added yet another new colorway and lowered the price.

Huawei’s then-subsidiary Honor also got into the re-released game by rebranding a few of its phones. Ultimately, this was a last-ditch effort to milk every dollar out of the most recently approved phones. Google and the US government made no publicized efforts to stop Huawei from doing this.

« Last Edit: January 09, 2021, 07:23:18 PM by javajolt » Logged

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