Japan telcos pull back sale of new Huawei smartphones

Citing consumer safety concerns and uncertainty over Google's Android support, SoftBank and KDDI have delayed the sale of new handsets from the Chinese vendor, specifically, the Huawei P30 lite, which had been slated to hit the local market on May 24.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

SoftBank and KDDI are pulling back the sale of Huawei's new handsets, citing concerns about consumer safety and uncertainty over Android support following Google's decision to restrict the Chinese vendor's access to the mobile operating system. 

Specifically, pre-orders of Huawei's P30 lite, which had been slated to launch later this month, have been suspended indefinitely. 

A SoftBank spokesperson said the telco was holding back the sale so it could have time to assess whether its customers will be able to use the Huawei handset "with a sense of safety". He gave no timeframe on when it would begin selling the device and expressed the telco's concerns regarding the US ban, according to an AFP report.

KDDI said it postponed the sale so it could ascertain the impact of the US ban and why it was made. NTT Docomo also announced it would stop taking pre-orders of the Huawei handsets that are scheduled for release mid-2019, but gave no details on why it was doing so or whether it was postponing the actual sale of new releases from the Chinese smartphone maker. 

Taiwan's telcos Chunghwa Telecom and Taiwan Mobile also said they would stop the sale of new Huawei devices, pointing to Google's lack of support as a reason, reported Nikkei

The carriers' decision comes after the US government added Huawei Technologies and its affiliates to its Entity List, barring US companies from transferring technology to the Chinese vendor without a special licence from the US government. This prompted Google to limit its support for Android running on Huawei devices, pushing the latter to depend on the Android Open Source Project. 

Google said on its Android Twitter account that it was complying with its government's requirements, but noted that services such as Google Play and Google Play Protect would continue to function on existing Huawei handsets. Future devices from the Chinese vendor would run without Google services. 

Early this week, the US Commerce Department gave Huawei a temporary reprieve after the administration issued a license to facilitate support for the vendor's existing products. Effective through to August, the temporary general licence allowed transactions "necessary to maintain and support existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, including software updates and patches". It applied to Huawei devices publicly available on or before May 16 and would permit US companies to provide information to Huawei regarding security vulnerabilities in products owned or controlled by Huawei. 

The US government licence would also allow engagement with the Chinese vendor involving the development of 5G standards as part of a major international standards body, such as IEEE.

Huawei has repeatedly refuted allegations it was spying for its government or that it had installed backdoors, arguing that no evidence has been produced to support such claims. The vendor in March filed a lawsuit against the US government in which it sought a declaratory judgement that the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was unconstitutional and a permanent injunction against the restrictions. Specifically, it said section 889 of the NDAA barred all US government agencies from doing business with Huawei as well as third parties that used Huawei equipment. 

Huawei's rotating chair Guo Ping said: "The US government has long branded Huawei a threat. It has hacked our servers and stolen our emails and source code. Despite this, the US government has never provided any evidence supporting their accusations that Huawei poses a cybersecurity threat."

Consumer business contributed most of Huawei's revenue for its latest fiscal year, growing 45 percent to hit 349 billion yuan (US$50.46 billion), while its carrier equipment business dipped 1.3 percent to 294 billion yuan (US$42.51 billion). The company's total revenue for the year climbed 20 percent to 721 billion yuan (US$104.24 billion).

The Chinese tech giant last month said it was aiming to be the world's largest smartphone brand by 2020, bypassing Samsung and Apple, and even if it failed to penetrate the US, South Korea, and Brazil markets. 

Last year, Huawei sold more than 200 million smartphones, which included handsets from its Honor brand, compared to just 3 million units in 2010. 


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