On April 16, President Trump signed an executive order restricting US mobile network operators from using technology from “foreign adversaries” that are deemed to pose “unacceptable risks” to national security. Concurrently, the Commerce Department placed Huawei—the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer—on a blacklist preventing American companies from working with Huawei and its affiliates.
As a result of this blacklisting, companies worldwide have severed ties with Huawei, including Google, which works with Huawei to provide Google Play Services (the proprietary parts of Android not released as open source software)—on smartphones and tablets sold outside of China. (Play Services is not included on Android devices in China, due to an ongoing dispute.) Shortly after the announcement of blacklisting, a waiver was granted allowing Google (and other companies) to continue working with Huawei for 90 days, though this functionally only gives Google the ability to roll out security patches for existing phones.
SEE: Launching a career in cybersecurity: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Huawei has maintained an alternative OS internally since 2012 in the event of such a scenario, though without components to manufacture devices, the existence of a “Plan B” OS serves no useful purpose. Huawei has also reportedly stockpiled at least three months of chips from other vendors, though the viability of that strategy faces a great deal of doubt.
For the moment, key component manufacturers are cutting off Huawei
In terms of hardware, Huawei is far from self-sufficient. Their HiSilicon division licenses the Arm ISA for use in Kirin smartphone SoCs and Kunpeng server CPUs. HiSilicon already possesses the requisite information to manufacture chips based on the technology, and they can continue to design ARMv8-powered chips without the involvement of Arm Holdings, which has cut ties with Huawei. The actual production of these is handled by TSMC, which is one of the few organizations continuing work with Huawei.
To date, reports indicate that Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Qorvo, Xilinx, Infineon, Lumentum, Micron, Western Digital, Toshiba, and Panasonic have cut ties with Huawei, at least temporarily. Notably, not all of these are US-based companies, such as Germany-based Infineon, which is reported to have stopped shipments temporarily to assess compliance requirements, leaving the door open to resuming cooperation in the future.
That said, there are still options for Huawei, with Ars Technica analyzing teardowns from iFixit and EE Times to identify components used in phones. Samsung, LG, and BOE are potential vendors for displays, and Sony and Leica can provide lenses and sensors for cameras. Flash storage and RAM may be an issue, as Toshiba and Micron are used, though SK Hynix provides RAM on some devices, and Samsung can likewise supply both.
Mobile network operators—and Microsoft—are pausing sales
While sales of Huawei phones from US mobile carriers have essentially evaporated as the US carrier launch of the Mate 10 Pro was scuttled after pressure from Congress, Japanese mobile carriers rely strongly on co-branded launches (compared to Europe, which sees more unlocked, off-contract phones).
According to ZDNet, SoftBank and KDDI (which operates the au network in Japan) have stopped sales of P30 Lite, which was scheduled to launch on Friday. NTT Docomo has also stopped taking pre-orders, as have Chunghwa Telecom and Taiwan Mobile.
There’s still no evidence of Huawei spying
The “smoking gun” reported by Bloomberg hinges on an exposed Telnet interface that was discovered by a third-party contractor hired by Vodafone Italia, though this vulnerability bears a striking similarity to vulnerabilities in Cisco and D-Link routers.
For more, check out “After Huawei, which Chinese firms are next on US enemies list?,” at ZDNet and “Huawei ban: Full timeline on how and why its phones are under fire” at CNET.