US telcos ordered to 'rip and replace' Huawei equipment

The FCC has begun the process of revoking China Telecom’s authorisation to operate in the United States

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered certain telecoms companies to remove Huawei equipment from their networks as part of the process of revoking China Telecom’s authorisation to operate in the United States.

The decision is based on concerns relating to China Telecom’s and Huawei’s alleged ties to the Chinese government. In July, the FCC officially declared Huawei as a threat to national security, based on the company being subject to Chinese law which obliges it to cooperate with intelligence services.

According to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the decision was made based on “a laundry list of evidence”.

“To summarize some of the main points, Huawei has a long and well-documented history of close ties to the Chinese military and intelligence communities, as well as the Chinese Communist Party, at every level of the company—all the way up to its founder. Huawei is subject to sweeping Chinese intelligence laws compelling Huawei’s assistance and cooperation with Chinese intelligence services and forbidding the disclosure of that assistance,” he said in an official statement, adding that the concerns “aren’t just hypothetical”.

“Independent entities have identified numerous security vulnerabilities in Huawei equipment and found it to be less secure than that of other companies—perhaps deliberately so,” said Pai.

In October, a report by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which is directed by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), found that Huawei failed to comply with “its own secure coding guidelines” during an incident that likely led to a vulnerability "of national significance".

Although the incident in question, which occurred in 2019, was remedied before it could be exploited, the number of Huawei vulnerabilities in the UK had “risen significantly” since 2018.

The FCC also announced that it would provide financial assistance to smaller telecom companies to facilitate the removal of Huawei equipment from their infrastructure, as part of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program.

Huawei said in a statement that it “is disappointed with the FCC’s decision to force the removal of our products from telecommunications networks. This overreach puts US citizens at risk in the largely underserved rural areas – during a pandemic - when reliable communication is essential”.

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