According to sources familiar with the matter at hand, the U.S. Department of Commerce is close to introduce a new rule that would allow U.S. companies to work with Huawei Technologies on setting standards for the next generation 5G networks.
In 2019, following rhe U.S. Commerce Department blacklisting the company, engineers in some U.S. technology companies stopped collaborating with Huawei to develop the 5G standard. The blacklisting left companies in the dark regarding what information and technology can their employees share with China’s Huawei.
Industry and government officials, said, this put the U.S. at a disadvantage. At standards setting meetings, where technical specifications and protocols are developed which will allow various equipment from different companies to function together without a hitch, with U.S. engineers sitting in silence, Huawei gained a stronger voice.
The newly drafted rule addresses this issue, said two sources. The newly drafted rule, which could still undergo change, allows U.S. companies to participate in standards bodies where Huawei is also a member, said sources.
Once the draft, under final review at the Commerce Department, gets cleared it would go to other agencies for approval, said sources.
It is unclear how long the full process will take or if another agency will object.
“As we approach the year mark, it is very much past time that this be addressed and clarified,” said Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents companies including Amazon.co Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Intel Corp.
The U.S. government wants U.S. companies to remain competitive with Huawei, said Wilson while adding, “But their policies have inadvertently caused U.S. companies to lose their seat at the table to Huawei and others on the entity list.”
The newly drafted rule only addresses Huawei, said sources not other Chinese listed entities such as video surveillance firm Hikvision.
“I know that Commerce is working on that rule,” said a senior State Department official. “We are supportive in trying to find a solution to that conundrum.”
“International standard setting is important to the development of 5G,” said another senior administration official on the condition of anonymity. “The discussions are about balancing that consideration with America’s national security needs.”
Last month, six U.S. senators, including Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and James Inhofe, sent a letter to the U.S. secretaries of Commerce, Defense, State, and Energy about the urgent need to issue regulations confirming that U.S. participation in 5G standards-setting is not restricted by the entity listing.
“We are deeply concerned about the risks to the U.S. global leadership position in 5G wireless technology as a result of this reduced participation,” said the letter.
The next generation 5G standard is expected to power everything starting from self-driving cars to high-speed video transmissions.
Industry standards are big business for telecommunications firms. They vie to have their patented technology considered essential to the standard, which can boost a company’s bottom line by billions of dollars.
According to the ITIC’s Wilson, the uncertainty surrounding U.S. participation in setting 5G standards has led U.S.-base standards bodies to consider moving abroad, noting that the nonprofit RISC-V Foundation decided to move from Delaware to Switzerland a few months ago.