Huawei faces US probe as Germany considers 5G options

(Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei is facing charges of stealing trade secrets from US companies, reports the Wall Street Journal, exacerbating the challenges facing the Chinese networking giant.

The US probe is based on an accusation made by T-Mobile in 2014. The US operator claimed Huawei illegally stole technology related to mobile phone testing robot, and a court in Seattle ruled that although trade secrets had been misappropriated, the act was not malicious.

Huawei and the Department of Justice reportedly declined to comment, but any investigation would add to the multiplying and escalating issues facing Huawei on a number of fronts.

Huawei woes 

Several nations have expressed concern about the use of Huawei’s equipment in their telecoms infrastructure, while diplomatic and trade tensions between the US and China are high.

Meanwhile, Zhengfei’s daughter and company CFO Meng Wanzhou is currently being held in Canada as US officials attempt to extradite her to face charges of fraud related to alleged dealings with Iran. On top of that, a Huawei employee has been arrested on allegations of spying – although Huawei has dismissed that person and distanced itself from their alleged actions.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei made a rare appearance earlier this week to state that he and the company had never spied on behalf of the Chinese government and had no intentions of doing so.

The main basis for these fears is a perception that Huawei is linked to the Chinese government and that the use of the company’s equipment risks the possibility of backdoors that could be used for espionage. These fears are heightened by 5G because of the sensitive information these networks will carry.

Huawei has effectively been frozen out of the US market, although it does provide equipment to a number of smaller players in the country, while Australia has banned its operators from using Huawei equipment in their 5G rollouts on national security grounds. It has also been reported that the US is urging its allies to take similar actions.

And now it appears as though Germany is considering new measures to stop operators using Huawei kit in their 5G networks – despite stating last year it saw no legal basis to do so. The Handelsblatt newspaper says the government could impose strict security standards that would be impossible for Huawei to meet and could, as a last resort, change the country’s telecommunications laws.

Huawei has repeatedly denied accusations of spying, pointing out that it works with security agencies around the world and that it sells products to more than 500 operators in 170 countries without issue. This includes the UK, where BT, EE, Vodafone and Three are all customers.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.