Huawei flap should prompt supply chain scrutiny

Aggressive efforts to keep China-based telecom vendor Huawei out of the U.S. market by the Trump administration have thrust a slow-burning debate in the networking space about the security implications of using Chinese-made technology into the limelight over the last two weeks, yet the real-world implications for business users are less than apocalyptic.

The basics of the administration's case against Huawei are simple. The company’s close ties to the Chinese government, coupled with China’s history of industrial and political espionage against the U.S., means that its products can’t be trusted not to slip important information back to Beijing. The current crisis is only two weeks old, but  these concerns about Huawei and other China-based tech vendors date back years.

Yet those close government ties aren’t in and of themselves particularly suspicious, according to Glenn O’Donnell, a vice president and research director with Forrester.

“That’s just the way you do business in China – that doesn’t meant that these companies are arms of Chinese-government intelligence agencies,” he said.

It’s also worth remembering that no cut-and-dried proof that Huawei has engaged in any kind of direct espionage on behalf of China’s government has ever been made public, and experts agree that the issue is much more about reputation than fact. Yet most say they’d be uncomfortable letting important packets touch the company’s hardware.

For businesses operating solely in the U.S., this is largely a non-issue. Huawei’s profile in American service-provider networks is small and shrinking fast. Market share research from the Dell’Oro Group shows that the company’s piece of the North American pie amounts to between 1 percent and 2 percent as of 2018, and Gartner senior principal analyst Bill Menezes said that it’s mostly found in small, rural carriers.

“It’s kind of a non-event in the U.S.,” he said, adding that the company’s handsets hadn’t gained much traction in North America

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