After the dramatic developments of yesterday which saw Google taking away Huawei’s access to the Android operating system for its smartphones, there has been temporary reprieve for the Chinese phone maker. The US Government has given Huawei a temporary 90-day license to continue operations and let it be business as usual. This means Huawei can continue to purchase orders from American companies, do business with American companies and also roll out Android software updates for its existing phones. However, the last bit, the one about software updates for its Huawei and Honor branded phones, comes with a caveat.
“Today, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it would issue a Temporary General License (TGL) amending the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to authorize specific, limited engagement in transactions involving the export, reexport, and transfer of items – subject to the EAR – to Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and its sixty-eight non-U.S. affiliates, which were added to the Bureau’s Entity List on May 16, 2019. This license will be effective on May 20, 2019 and lasts 90 days,” the US Department of Commerce has said in an official statement.
The important date to focus on is May 16, 2019. According to the conditions of the temporary 90-day license given to Huawei, the smartphone maker can roll out updates for phones that were made available to the public on or before May 16, 2019. This includes software support, updates and security patches that may be essential for the company’s Huawei and Honor brand of Android phones.
Huawei can also maintain the mobile network equipment as required, including the latest vulnerability disclosures.
“The Temporary General License grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services. In short, this license will allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, in an official statement. The Temporary General License authorizes certain activities necessary to continue operations of existing networks and to support existing mobile services, including cybersecurity research critical to maintaining the integrity and reliability of existing and fully operational networks and equipment.
“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry. Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,” Huawei had said in a statement shared with News18 yesterday.
Consumers were a worried lot though, wondering what will happen to the software support and updates their phones may require in the coming months. “We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device,” Google had clarified in a statement posted on Twitter from the @Android account. This meant that the Google Play Services as well as the Google Play Protect option will continue to get updated on existing Huawei and Honor phones.
Huawei makes flagship phones including the P30 Pro and the Mate 20 Pro, and has an extensive line-up of phones under the Honor umbrella as well. The company is also making a foldable Android phone, called the Mate X.
Google had restricted Huawei’s access to Android after President Donald Trump used an executive order to declare a national emergency amounting to threats to U.S. technology last week. Huawei and 68 of its affiliate companies were added to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Entity List. Being on this list prevents U.S. companies from continuing to do business with these companies—this includes buying and selling components and hardware, buying and selling software or services, without having a requisite license from the US government for continuing to do business with these companies. The bone of contention remains the suspicion that Huawei hardware and software products have a hidden backdoor, which allow the Chinese government to snoop on data around the world. This has been the perceived issue with Huawei’s mobile network equipment and it is the same with smartphones as well.