What's Happening to Huawei?

What's Happening to Huawei?
By Sarvjit Rangra / May 29, 2019

Huawei is facing an international push to scrutinize, filter, restrict and even ban their goods and services over suspicions that the telecommunications brand is sharing user information with the Chinese government.

In a nutshell, this is what we found:

  • The countries that are partaking in the global sweep to inspect Huawei's hard- and software assembly are doing so in a bid to prevent undue surveillance and theft of intellectual property.
  • Those countries include Australia, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Netherlands, Poland, Thailand, UK and the US.
  • Not all of these countries have banned Huawei outright; some have partial bans in effect or are merely considering bans for unstated reasons or because of influence from other countries. Some countries such as the UK found independent reasons to doubt Huawei in the process of investigation, opening up other problems concerning the general security and software integrity of Huawei's phones.
  • Because of Huawei's shut-out in the US, Google has opted to effectively eject the Chinese manufacturer from the Android ecosystem, Intel and Qualcomm are refusing to supply chipsets to the company any longer, and microSD support has been axed along with Huawei's partnership with the SD Association. While Huawei can survive off independent hardware solutions, being cut off from Android is an irreparable blow with no clear solution in sight, and the inability to market their phones in many high-profile countries is a considerable setback.
  • While Huawei has had related issues in and out over the past several years, the outlook was positive on the dawn of 2019 but quickly sank after the turn of the year. The company's success with the P20 Pro was making headlines and even raising questions about Samsung's position at the top of the Android ecosystem as Huawei continued to release excellently crafted handsets with steep hardware at shallow price points.
  • Governments report that while Huawei's use of hard- and software technologies raises no legitimate concern, the company's internal practices are shady and have reportedly been found to breach numerous privacy and trade laws, particularly as stated by the US DoJ and FBI.
  • India has no reported input on the matter yet. The distribution and advancement of Huawei smartphones remains unhindered in itself, but because Google has pulled the plug on support for Huawei devices, residents of India may find that new Huawei handsets will be functionally impaired on a software level if sales are even allowed to continue.

So, What's the Truth?

We'll be the first to admit that we don't know the reality, and to be fair, nobody else does either. Some speculate that Huawei is being shut out thanks to a conspiracy bid that would ensure Samsung's continued reign at the top of the Android ecosystem; after all, Huawei is the second largest Android manufacturer in the world and rapidly gaining traction on the Korean giant. To some, this is believable in light of multiple governments reporting that Huawei's devices don't appear to pose a threat to user data, at least not in any way that's connected with the Chinese government. However, other reasons to doubt the company's products have been dredged up during investigations, namely general security.

As with any matter concerning user privacy and security, internal government documents aren't a matter that we or any other publication will handily have access to, let alone the legal wherewithal to peep about it. All we know is that Huawei seems to have crossed some lines and landed itself in boiling hot water, and we have little choice but to roll with it. For those who reside in India and happen to be using a Huawei handset, chances are that it still works fine and will continue to for some time — no specifics available on that one.

We can't tell you with certainty if it's "safe" to use Huawei's devices, but our default assumption is that until definitive evidence is published showing how their devices may threaten users, there is probably no cause for concern. However, we encourage our readers to perform their own investigative research and arrive at their own conclusions.

The US in particular feels there's an issue over the horizon because of the current trade wars that are transpiring between China and the US. To call it "paranoia" would be somewhat insensitive; as politics and cybersecurity go, it's not beyond any analyst's consideration that a potentially government-sponsored telecom company could pose concerns for a competing superpower. Fortunately, there are other Chinese brands to pick from such as Oppo, Vivo, Lenovo, Xioami and Meizu, suggesting that this ban isn't leveled at China for the sake of China but due to concerns with Huawei specifically.

We should note that much of the controversy and restrictions going forward are centered around Huawai's implementation of 5G. This has many reasons for being:

  • 5G is still a relatively new technology with flaws that we haven't yet fully understood or ironed out, which could pose a security concern, something that Huawei already struggles with
  • 5G affords gigabit bandwidths for the average consumer, meaning that anyone with a Huawei device could theoretically have large amounts of data transmitted about them at any time without the user noticing
  • Countries and their respective phone service providers are still deciding on which telecom providers they want to base their upcoming 5G infrastructures off of, and with Huawei being one such provider, it's critical to understand the risks and liabilities of adopting their technology where millions of users could be affected

What Should We Do Now?

Those who reside in India have little cause for concern at the moment, but as mercurial as the Huawei drama is right now, we can't assure you that will still be true a week from now. Because of how long it can take to roll out updates, the possibility of any update that might cripple your Huawei handset is likely not just around the corner. At minimum, you can expect all security updates and OS upgrades to halt indefinitely.

Huawei is currently working on their own mobile platform to compete with Android, and while the aim is high, analysts are less than optimistic about the future of this endeavor. This does mean that fans of Huawei's devices may be able to continue using their products, but the stability, security and offerings of their own operating platform are questionable and remain to be seen. There are also talks that are still in motion to possibly allow Huawei to continue supporting microSD.

In any case, there's confidence that Huawei will survive in some form despite these hardships, and the turnout may not be so bad if the Chinese manufacturer can cleave some deals with major hard- and software providers.

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