What is Huawei and why do so many countries want to limit its reach?

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Huawei is a Chinese telecom network and equipment company. It is the second largest smartphone company in the world.

It is investing heavily in building out a 5G network, and is one of the leaders in this area. 

What is 5G?  It is 5th generation cellular network technology. It is estimated that 5G will, at its lowest speed, be 20 times faster than our 4G networks!

This will mean, for example, that

  • transactions can happen almost instantly,
  • you won’t have to wait to buffer movies – that will happen before you can blink!
  • Smart Homes will become a reality in some areas.

So what’s the problem?

  • Huawei has done projects for the Chinese government.
  • America, Australia, the UK and some other countries are uncomfortable with the thought of using Chinese 5G networks going forward.
  • They say that 5G networks will have many security risks, and are worried that the Chinese government will be able to use this to spy on their countries.
  • They have been trying to ban or limit use of its networking equipment, like cell towers, as the fear is the Chinese companies and hackers can introduce cyber espionage or spy software into the networks through these cell towers.
  • The US has banned Huawei networking equipment since 2012. The UK has said that Huawei cannot provide some of the major components for the 5G networks in the UK, but has not banned Huawei completely.
  • In May 2019, US President Trump took it one step further and banned US companies from doing business with those companies it was evaluating as a security risk. This meant Huawei.
  • Some say that this has nothing to do with cybersecurity, but see this as the next step in the major competition between the US and China to be the leader in the development of 5G networks.
  • In light of this ban, Google said that Huawei can no longer use Android operating systems on its phones going forward. It cannot allow the Huawei phones to get Android updates, and the new Huawei phones will not have Gmail, Google Maps, and other such useful services.
  • ARM, a major computer chip designer, and one that Huawei relies on a lot, cut ties with Huawei.
  • This put Huawei in a very difficult position. It also meant a loss of business to US companies who do big business with this telecom giant.

What happens next? This was under discussion at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, this weekend. President Trump appears to have backed away from this position a bit, and has vaguely said that US companies can do business with Huawei, in areas where national security is not a threat.

In the meantime, Huawei has said that it is busy planning alternate sources of computer chips and is building a backup to Android. It doesn’t want to be in this position again.

Here are some discussion points, for you and your friends or parents to debate: 

  • How close are the ties between the Chinese government and Chinese companies?
  • How real is this concern that other countries have about Chinese companies using their global networks to spy on them?
  • Is it fair to limit the growth and development of companies such as this? Or is it justified, and better to be cautious rather than surprised once these networks are up and no one can do anything about them?
  • What do you think about this trade war between the US and China?

Send us your thoughts! Write in the comments section below, or email us at: mail@currentkids.in


Written by: Sunaina Murthy

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